CO union asks governor, DOCCES to pause inmate visits to slow Covid spread in prisons

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 November 2020 at 1:09 pm

At 2 local prisons, Orleans Correctional hasn’t had any cases, while Albion Correctional reports 10

ALBANY – The union representing corrections officers is asking the governor and state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to take immediate steps to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.

The state’s DOCCES Covid-19 Report says 1,705 staff have tested positive for Covid, 1,737 inmates have contracted Covid and 125 parolees have got it. Click here to see that report.

The confirmed deaths from Covid include 5 staff members, 18 inmates and 4 people on parole.

Of the 2 state prisons in Orleans County, there have been 10 inmates who have tested positive – all at the Albion Correctional Facility, which is a women’s prison. That site has also had 548 negative tests. At the Orleans Correctional Facility, there have been 595 tests and all have come back negative for Covid at that men’s prison.

That is a significant contrast from Elmira, where 605 inmates have tested positive. Four other prisons have had more than 100 inmates test positive: Greene, 161; Green Haven, 129; Fishkill, 114; and Shawangunk, 101.

“With Covid-19 rates beginning to spike throughout New York, we are calling on the Governor and DOCCS to take immediate steps to prevent any outbreaks inside the facilities where my members serve the people of this state,” said Michael B. Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association. “We are requesting that all non-essential inmate movement cease, visitations be paused and inmates be placed in an ‘every other cubical’ setting inside prison dormitories.”

NYSCOPBA said its insistence on safety measures for the protection of corrections officers and the incarcerated population helped slow the spread in the first and second quarters of the year.

However, Power said the recent easing of these restrictions has resulted in virus outbreaks inside the prison walls of several prisons in New York..

“New York should once again heed NYSCOPBA’s call to put immediate safeguards in place before additional outbreaks occur,” Powers said. “When the positivity rates inside Greene and Elmira exploded, NYSCOPBA called for the stoppage of visitations and nonessential transports, as well as implementing social distancing and rapid testing for staff. As a result, we’ve seen the positive levels decline significantly in those two prisons. The state needs to act now, system-wide, before it’s too late.”