NYUJ: NEW YORK STATE SCRAMBLES TO INCREASE TESTING DOCCS POPULATION AHEAD OF TOMORROW’S “COVID-19 IMPACT ON PRISONS JAILS” HEARING; NYUJ COALITION URGES NYS TO STOP PLAYING GAMES & RELEASE TESTING PLAN IMMEDIATELY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 21, 2020 
Contact: Jessica Floyd | JFloyd@Skdknick.com | 

NYUJ: NEW YORK STATE SCRAMBLES TO INCREASE TESTING DOCCS POPULATION AHEAD OF TOMORROW’S “COVID-19 IMPACT ON PRISONS JAILS” HEARING; NYUJ COALITION URGES NYS TO STOP PLAYING GAMES & RELEASE TESTING PLAN IMMEDIATELY

New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Tested 3,580 Incarcerated Individuals in the Last Week — DOCCS Testing Pales Compared to Statewide Capacity

NYUJ to New York State: Stop Playing Games with Human Lives

NEW YORK – New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) today called on New York State to focus on the life threatening humanitarian crisis in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) — following news that DOCCS administered an additional 3,580 tests since last week. For the past three weeks, DOCCS tested less than one percent of the state’s incarcerated population. Now, just days before the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction and Senate Committee on Health hold a hearing regarding COVID in prisons and jails , DOCCS appears to be ramping up testing.. The spike does not erase the fact that New York DOCCS has failed to implement a consistent and evidence-based testing strategy in its state prisons, an erratic trend of long lulls and short bursts of testing. New York’s lack of data has resulted in confusing figures. DOCCS continues to see more correctional staff test positive than incarcerated individuals – a trend that runs counter to every state in our analysis outside of Nevada. . Considering there are far more incarcerated individuals than staff and the rate at which staff interact with the incarcerated population, the data highlights the significant undertesting that has been in place for more than half a year.

NYUJ calls for DOCCS to present a comprehensive, transparent plan that includes administering COVID-19 tests to all incarcerated individuals, to combat coronavirus throughout the department. Any substantial plan from DOCCS must include testing every incarcerated individual to establish a baseline of viral impact and continuing to conduct follow up exams to monitor the threat of coronavirus in state correctional facilities. For months, New York’s data has shown a lackluster approach to this public health crisis, jeopardizing prison safety during this global pandemic. New Yorkers United for Justice has called for not only a mass testing since March, but a publicly disclosed plan to prevent the spread of coronavirus in correctional facilities and the statewide criminal justice system.

“It appears DOCCS has reported these test results as a last minute attempt to lighten the examination of the department’s response, or lack thereof, from New York State Senators,” said  Khalil A. Cumberbatch, Senior Advisor at New Yorkers United for Justice. “However, much more needs to be done. From the early stages of the pandemic, NYUJ has called for a transparent and comprehensive testing plan. Unfortunately, we have seen a lackluster response, to say the least, which has been a central theme to DOCCS actions since COVID hit NYS prisons. We continue to call for state officials to act upon the advice of public health experts — mainly, to consistently test all incarcerated New Yorkers. During this pandemic, everyone’s well being is dependent on their neighbors’ health — this is especially the case for those who interact with the criminal justice system given the conditions that go hand-and-hand with incarceration.

Prisons are just one facet of the criminal justice system that must be addressed. Crowded courtrooms, for example, can contribute to virus transmission and can present enormous risks for all court personnel, lawyers, witnesses, accused persons, and the general public. NYUJ has developed recommended principles for the state’s justice system to minimize the risk of renewed outbreaks by relying on post COVID practices in policing, sentencing, incarceration, and supervision.

COVID Cases Among Incarcerated Individuals and Correctional Staff
Updated on September 21, 2020

Prison System (Accessed  Sep. 21, 2020) Incarcerated Positive Staff Positive Incarcerated Individual to Staff COVID ratio # of Tests for incarcerated population
Alabama 404 379 1.07 1,982
California 13,069 3,312 3.95 91,978
Delaware 534 172 3.10 N/A
Federal BOP 13,667 1,728 7.91 55,153
Florida 16,081 2,973 5.41 80,294
Georgia 1,838 874 2.10 N/A
Illinois 1,580 734 2.15 N/A
Indiana 1,168 461 2.53 4,949
Iowa 1,003 132 7.60 12,278
Kansas 1,942 220 8.83 N/A
Louisiana 2,253 452 4.98 5,900
Michigan 5,495 498 11.03 80,667
Missouri 1,590 426 3.73 26,965
Nevada 26 124 0.21 12,368
New Jersey 2,893 1,014 2.85 Phase 3 testing, testing all individuals who tested negative in Phase 2.
New York 773 1,326 0.58 12,178
Ohio 6,181 1,131 5.47 29,552
Oregon 913 235 3.89 4,709
Pennsylvania 375 268 1.40 14,394
South Carolina 2,037 470 4.33 N/A
Texas 21,440 4,554 4.71 199,571
Vermont 55 22 2.50 1,819
Wisconsin 1,053 281 3.75 37,278

 

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About New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ):
New Yorkers United for Justice is a statewide coalition comprised of local and national non-profit organizations committed to supporting a movement that will bring much-needed criminal justice reform to New York State and ensure that policies promote safety and fairness. NYUJ aims for legislative urgency to fix a broken criminal justice system that punishes the poor and communities of color, tears families apart, and makes New Yorkers less safe. NYUJ believes that a system that ensures equal access to justice for anyone accused in New York State, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or religion, must be the standard.