Community advocates fear for health of inmates after several dozen test positive for virus

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As coronavirus cases continue to surge worldwide, there are major concerns from community advocates about the health of those in jails and prisons across the city. 

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This comes after several dozen inmates have tested positive at Rikers Island. Members with the organization New Yorkers United For Justice were joined by legal experts Monday to call on the state for a plan focused on protecting inmates.

A few of the factors they say could help are: 

- Reducing the number of people going into the system. 

- Moving non-violent inmates to another facility 

- Considering home detention for the older people

This is a move being considered at a federal level, but advocates say they want the state to make a decision now. 

 

The city has already released 23 older inmates to prevent exposure to the coronavirus. "The best social distancing you can get is maybe 2 or 3 feet away from your neighbor. As we all know facilities all across the state are jam-packed, overcrowded to some extent. People are literally on top of each other. Health care delivery and health care precautions in those facilities are all too often non-existent,” said chief strategist for NYUJ, Khalil Cumberbatch. 

News 12 reached out to the city’s Department of Corrections and they tell News 12 that they have 864 people in custody in the 50 years or older range, who are at risk for coronavirus-related complications. 

They tell News 12 they are following an action plan to keep inmates healthy, including screening anyone who is taken into custody. 

Advocates say this is also about the health of the staff at these facilities after several DOC employees have already tested positive for the coronavirus.

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