COVID-19 Testing & Mitigation Efforts, Flu Vaccinations, Preservation of Family Ties Critical During 2nd Wave
QUEENS, NEW YORK – On OCTOBER 30, 2020 at 10:00am at the Queensboro Correctional Facility, 47-04 Van Dam St, Long Island City, Queens; Assembly Correction Chair David I. Weprin, Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Chair Luis Sepúlveda, and other elected offices will join criminal justice advocates to call for increased attention to New York State’s incarcerated population during the COVID- 19 pandemic (see advocates list below).
Barely into the fall, two correctional facilities have already been closed to visitors; this comes only two months after they opened following the initial five month shutdown caused by the coronavirus in the spring. With a recently reported rise in individuals testing positive for COVID-19 in a number of correctional facilities across the State, it is critical that the State of New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) ensures it takes any and all necessary steps to safeguard incarcerated individuals, correctional staff, and the communities surrounding prisons from the novel coronavirus prior to any second wave of the pandemic. CDC recommended testing and mitigation efforts must be implemented in lieu of the practice of isolating incarcerated individuals who have been suspected to have been exposed to COVID-19, flu vaccinations should be made available for individuals requesting one, and preparations must be made to preserve visitation across all of the state’s 52 facilities–which is essential for maintaining family ties and morale in those facilities through the emergency period.
Crucial background on DOCCS and COVID-19 testing: The recently reported increase in positive COVID-19 tests cannot be accurately assessed because for months the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) provided almost no testing to incarcerated people. As a result, there is no data available to reflect what the infection rate was in the early months of the pandemic. Now that DOCCS finally started randomly testing, it has announced a “spike” or “increase”, but has not admitted that the assessment is based on an assumption that there were few to no infections in the early months of the pandemic. Due to a lack of testing in March, April, May and June, DOCCS does not have an accurate representation of the infection rate in state correctional facilities and furthermore, failed to provide a comprehensive plan to address the real health threat to incarcerated people from the beginning of the pandemic. Placing the burden and responsibility of family members and incarcerated individuals for a rise in cases, while failing to address the safety of those inside, is unacceptable. DOCCS needs to make clear, transparent, and public plans for testing, health, and safety of those incarcerated and for open and safe family visitation protocols. This must be part of any future plan.
WHO: Speakers include Assembly Correction Chair David I. Weprin, Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Chair Luis Sepúlveda, family members of incarcerated New Yorkers, and representatives from a broad coalition including the Alliance for Families for Justice (AFJ), Release Aging People from Prison Campaign (RAPP), Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, Parole Preparation Project, the Fortune Society, Katal Center, John Brown Lives!, JUST and College, Community Fellowship (“CCF”).
WHEN: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2020
WHERE: Queensboro Correctional Facility
47-04 Van Dam St,
Long Island City, Queens
VISUALS: Elected Officials speaking outside Queensboro Correctional Facility, Family Members of Incarcerated Individuals detailing effects of COVID in prisons, advocates rallying.
NOTE TO MEDIA: Please arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the event to set up equipment. Elected officials, advocates, and family members of incarcerated New Yorkers will be available for interviews prior to and after the press conference by contacting the individuals listed below: