NYUJ: UPDATED DATA SHOWS NEW YORK STATE STILL DANGEROUSLY LAGS ON COVID-19 TESTS IN PRISONS; ADVOCATES URGE NYS TO ADOPT NEW COVID SAFETY PLAN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 4, 2020 
Contact: Jessica Floyd | JFloyd@Skdknick.com | 

NYUJ: UPDATED DATA SHOWS NEW YORK STATE STILL DANGEROUSLY LAGS ON COVID-19 TESTS IN PRISONS; ADVOCATES URGE NYS TO ADOPT NEW COVID SAFETY PLAN

Latest Data Shows Data Shows New York’s prison testing rate (15.28%) is far below other states

NYUJ to New York State: Test Every Individual In The Prison System; Reduce the Existing Prison Population; Limit Incoming Detainees

NEW YORK – New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) today called on New York State to implement new COVID-19 principles to safeguard the state’s criminal justice system during the pandemic. In the state comparison data collected by NYUJ, New York is testing the incarcerated population at limited rates (15.28%) and continues to trail states like Ohio, Michigan, California, Texas, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Missouri. The alarming data details an underwhelming approach to prison safety during this global pandemic.

COVID-19 cannot be contained within state prisons; the spread of the virus behind bars threatens all communities. The lack of routine and consistent testing in New York state prisons remains a large blind spot that not only puts those who are incarcerated and work in corrections in danger – it threatens the success of New York’s reopening.

“It is simply unacceptable that we are 5 months into this crisis and New York State has only tested 15% of its incarcerated population and the high overall positive rate of 10.30% suggest cases of COVID have gone undetected in our state prisons,” said  Khalil Cumberbatch, Senior Advisor at New Yorkers United for Justice. “We need a full scale plan now. Last month, we provided the state with COVID-19 principles to develop a framework to safeguard all New Yorkers from the virus, yet there is still no plan in place to administer a test of all incarcerated New Yorkers nor prevent COVID-19 in the state’s criminal justice system which includes judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, court officers and corrections staff. For every individual who interacts with a system which has limited testing, the broader New York State population’s vulnerability increases.”

New York developed precautions for safely returning to restaurants, shops, and businesses throughout the state – we must be sure that the same precautions are taken in our entire criminal justice system to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus. Crowded courtrooms can contribute to virus transmission and can present enormous risks for all court personnel, lawyers, witnesses, accused persons, and the general public. The reopening of courts should be guided by independent medical advice. The recommended principles that NYUJ is urging the state to adopt 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 August 3, 2020

Prison System (Accessed  Aug. 3, 2020) Incarcerated Positive Staff Positive Incarcerated Individual to Staff COVID ratio # of Tests for incarcerated population
Alabama 207 303 0.68 997
California 8,274 1,544 5.36 69,547
Delaware 521 161 3.24 N/A
Federal BOP 10,686 1,212 8.82 N/A
Florida 8,471 1,750 4.84 58,809
Georgia 940 505 1.86 N/A
Illinois 369 281 1.31 N/A
Indiana 733 344 2.13 2,483
Iowa 375 63 5.95 6,084
Kansas 925 134 6.90 N/A
Louisiana 875 310 2.82 2,513
Michigan 3,896 414 9.41 55,853
Missouri 539 122 4.42 22,297
Nevada 19 76 0.25 N/A
New Jersey 2,777 781 3.56 Reporting all incarcerated individuals tested.
New York 604 1311 0.46 5,866
Ohio 5,262 964 5.46 20,011
Oregon 415 116 3.60 2,298
Pennsylvania 304 218 1.40 8,374
South Carolina 930 293 3.17 N/A
Texas 15,285 3,288 4.65 163,362
Vermont 130 20 6.5 1,515
Wisconsin 304 123 2.47 25,596

Connecticut and Massachusetts removed from analysis due to inconsistent availability of data.

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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 social economic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or religion, must be the standard.