COVID-19 cases surge in prisons

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NEW YORK — As COVID-19 infection rates rise, across the state the numbers inside the state’s prisons are unfortunately are also following the same trend.

Tuesday, New Yorkers United for Justice and state lawmakers joined a call for more action.

“These infections are going unchecked, undocumented and untreated. It’s an unacceptable outcome in a state that bore the brunt this pandemic,” said Alexander Horwitz, Executive Director of NYUJ.

They want to see more early releases for eligible prisoners, more testing and say corrections officers and prisoners should be vaccinated as soon as possible to prevent further spread of the deadly virus.

They believe thus far the prison population in New York has gone largely ignored during the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the last nine months is a real abdication of responsibility on the part of DOCCS to address this crisis,” said Horwitz, referring to the department of corrections and community supervision.

As of Dec. 31, there are more than 3,100 positive cases of COVID-19 across state prisons, according to Horwitz. From Dec. 1 to Dec. 31, the group says they have seen a 71% increase. Over the holidays, six inmates lost their lives to the coronavirus.

“We know the coronavirus moves very quickly and in prisons moves even faster,” said Horwitz. “We know the gates and the walls around the prison system do nothing to protect from this kind of a pandemic.”

To date, state officials confirm 48,630 inmates have been tested for COVID-19 with 1,511 tests still pending results. Thus far, 3,548 individuals were granted early release. More could follow on a rolling basis based on individual reviews.

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