Jacobson Calls for Covid-19 Protections

NEWBURGH – In response to a wide-range of concerns regarding the rapid spread of COVID-19 in New York State correctional facilities, Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson (D-104) is calling for protections for both correctional officers and inmates. So far, more than 200 correctional officers and 30 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 in New York State.

Jacobson said, “Our prisons and jails are ideal breeding grounds for COVID-19. While many correctional officers and inmates have already tested positive, we can be certain that—given the well-documented shortage of testing kits—the numbers we are hearing fall far short of reality.”

Correctional facilities are designed to confine inmates in close quarters with numerous shared facilities and communal areas, making it easier for a highly communicable virus such as
COVID-19 to spread.

Jacobson said, “Reports have reached my office that potentially infected correctional officers are being ordered back to work after just three days without a fever. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends recovere individuals to quarantine for a full seven days from the onset of symptoms, but it only makes sense that officers be tested before returning to work to ensure that they will do so virus-free.”

Last week, the Department of Corrections and Community Service (DOCCS) reversed a policy banning correctional officers from wearing their own masks at work. However, the State is not providing correctional officers with masks. The New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOBA) is working to provide some personal protective equipment (PPE), but the State is only providing PPE to officers and staff who are working in direct contact with infected inmates.

“It is the State’s responsibility to supply correctional officers with masks, gloves, and any other necessary PPE.”

“Moreover,” Jacobson concluded, “I have heard reports that inmates at Fishkill Correctional do not have access to hand sanitizer and that Green Haven Correctional is continuing its regular communal mealtimes despite a rising number of infections. There are numerous commonsense measures that can be put in place to help everybody involved. Inmates showing virus symptoms should immediately be separated from the general population and facilities should implement social distancing to the best of their abilities. We already know that COVID-19 can be shared asymptomatically and has no regard for status. This is a deadly virus that will impact correctional facility staff and inmates equally. If we do not act quickly, the potential loss of life is staggering.”

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