Criminal justice reform groups demand change to control COVID spread in prisons

WWNY Criminal justice reform groups demand change to control COVID spread in prisons

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - More COVID-19 cases and deaths in New York state prisons have prompted criminal justice reform advocates to demand change.

The groups New Yorkers United for Justice and the Correctional Association of New York say they’ve been putting pressure on the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) since March to lay out a clear plan to control the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, but that the agency has failed to do so.

The groups say in December, COVID-19 cases in New York prisons surged by 71 percent.

There have now been more than 3,100 cases and more than 2 dozen deaths.

Six deaths were reported in the last two weeks.

“No one in New York state is serving a death sentence and yet we have had 6 people die of COVID-19 because they are incarcerated. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the last 9 months is a real abdication of responsibility on the part of DOCCS to address this crisis,” said Alexander Horwitz, executive director, NYUJ.

Here in the north country, Gouverneur Correctional Facility has had more than 50 inmates test positive, the highest case total among prisons in the tri-county region.

DOCCS says it’s following all state Department of Health guidelines in prisons, completed COVID testing on all inmates on November 15, and began an asymptomatic surveillance testing plan in December.

In addition, DOCCS offers rapid testing for staff in facilities that have seen a spike in cases.

Visitation has been suspended at all prisons until further notice and intake of state-ready inmates from county jails has been temporarily suspended.

Copyright 2021 WWNY. All rights reserved.