As COVID-19 Crisis Worsens in Prisons and 6 New Deaths, NYUJ Demands Accountability, Transparency, and Change in the NY State Correctional System at COVID-19 Press Conference
Advocates, Legislators Calls for Immediate, Life Saving Action from DOCCS
NEW YORK, NY— New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ),a bipartisan criminal justice coalition, today hosted a press conference with The Correctional Association of New York (CANY), New York State Senator Luis Sepúlveda, and Assembly Member David Weprin to increase pressure on the Department of Corrections and Community Services (DOCCS) for improved COVID-19 measures in their facilities following new data showing a terrifying surge of COVID cases and deaths in the month of December.
Advocates and legislators specifically discussed next steps for demands for concrete action, oversight, and straightforward testing tracking after months of bare minimum testing, and unclear and confounding reporting from DOCCS. NYUJ, along with countless other organizations, has called on DOCCS for a publicly available COVID-19 plan since March and the agency has failed to respond directly disregarding public health recommendations from health organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA) and Center for Disease Control (CDC).
In DOCCS’ New York state facilities, the COVID-19 crisis has dramatically worsened over the past few weeks. Total positives in DOCCS are over 3,000, with 3,101 cases as of December 31st. There has been a 71% increase in positive cases (1,811 to 3,101) in the month of December and there have been 6 new deaths since December 14.
In his press conference address, the Executive Director of NYUJ, Alexander Horwitz highlighted the surge in COVID-19 infections and fatalities in DOCCS, as well as the need for mass testing with clear data reporting from DOCCS including reporting on total tests administered, so that DOCCS testing practices can be tracked and analyzed.
“Put simply, DOCCS has failed in their duty to keep New Yorkers safe,” said Alexander Horwitz, Executive Director of NYUJ. “NYUJ has demanded a clear and comprehensive plan to control the spread of COVID-19 since March and our demands have been continually ignored at the cost of widespread suffering and death. Over the last nine months, as NYUJ tracked testing and cases in DOCCS, we have seen a department continually abdicate its responsibilities to incarcerated New Yorkers, prison workers, and surrounding communities. The latest numbers from DOCCS are unacceptable. DOCCS has had more than enough time and tools at their disposal to prevent these predictable tragedies. Drastic measures must be taken immediately to ensure that DOCCS’ complacency ends here.”
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.