NYUJ Testing Update: New Data Show a Lack of Testing in Prisons as COVID-19 Surges in New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 8, 2020 
Contact: Jason Kaplan | kaplan@Skdknick.com | 

NYUJ Testing Update: New York State Prisons Continue to Receive Minimal Testing as DOCCS Administers Less Than 100 COVID-19 Tests to NY Facilities over 7 day period; NYUJ Calls on DOCCS to Implement Clear and Robust Mass-Testing Plan Immediately

New Data Shows a Disturbing Lack of Testing in DOCCS Facilities as COVID-19 Numbers Continue to Surge in New York 

NEW YORK, NYAs COVID-19 continues to surge across New York and the state inches closer to a vaccine distribution plan, the latest analysis from the New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) shows that the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) continues to forgo proper testing protocols backed by health experts.

NYUJ’s latest analysis of data released by DOCCS shows that the five largest DOCCS facilities (i.e., Attica, Clinton, Elmira, Fishkill, Green Haven) have only received 60 tests combined between  Nov. 27. and Dec. 3. Fishkill, Green Haven, and Elmira received no new testing. The estimated net testing total for all DOCCS facilities is only 86 tests. This is a grossly irresponsible amount of testing for one of New York’s most vulnerable populations.

Evidence has shown that populations in congregate settings are among the most vulnerable for outbreaks, the U.S. Center for Disease Control has recommended mass testing in prison facilities and The American Medical Association (AMA) has argued incarcerated people should be among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. DOCCS’ insufficient testing puts its facilities at risk for further outbreaks as well as surrounding New York communities. For example, Greene Correctional Facility experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 that spread to nearby communities, including an assisted living facility. DOCCS’ current testing practices leave its facilities open to continued outbreaks in larger scale and severity. DOCCS cannot continue to ignore the immediate need for more robust testing and allow their negligence to impede New York’s assessment and response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

NYUJ calls on DOCCS’s leadership to consistently test and retest the entire population of New York state prisons to gain an accurate understanding of COVID-19’s impact in all facilities administered by DOCCS and prevent further outbreaks in prisons and spreads to communities that can be prevented. Since March, DOCCS has failed to answer NYUJ’s calls for mass testing and a publicly disclosed plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities and the statewide criminal justice system.

Facility Total Estimated New Tests (Nov. 27-Dec. 3)
All DOCCS Facilities in NY 79
Attica 45
Clinton 5
Fishkill 10
Green Haven 0
Elmira 0

Methodology & Definition of Terms

Full analysis of DOCCS’ testing data can be viewed here. Analysis from New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) is based on publicly available data reported by the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). Unlike many states, which report total numbers of tests, DOCCS COVID-19 reporting is limited to the status of individuals who received COVID-19 tests.

The chart above, derived from DOCCS’ limited publicly disclosed data, therefore shows an estimated number of new COVID-19 tests based on that data. The estimated number of tests reflects the change in pending tests day-over-day after taking into account net changes in both total positive and total negative tests.

Change in positive cases: The change in reported individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 during date range. Change in negative cases: The change in reported individuals who tested negative for COVID-19 between date range. NOTE: Because DOCCS reports the status of individuals and not tests, a decrease in negatives between Day 1 and Day 2 is reported as 0 since those individuals should be represented by an increase in the total positive. Leaving as negative would cause an under-reporting of total tests.

Total new test results: The total sum of changes in positive and negative cases.

Estimated new tests: Day 2’s pending test total subtracted by the difference between Day 1’s pending number and the total new test results between Day 1 and Day 2.

[Pending results in Day 2] – ([Pending results in Day 1] – [New test results between Day 1 and Day 2])

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About New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ)
New Yorkers United for Justice is a statewide coalition 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.