Prison employees should be provided with masks, protective equipment during pandemic

Posted 29 March 2020 at 9:05 am


As a concerned citizen, I’m speaking for myself and many others in my community. NYS is the epicenter of the coronavirus with 44,635 cases and 519 deaths (as of Friday) and people admitted to hospitals doubling every 4 days.

We would like to know how the governor can possibly justify expecting Correction Officers or any Corrections employee to put their lives on the line every day, but are not willing to protect them with masks, gloves and other equipment and stopping transfer of inmates between prisons. How does that even make sense for controlling or prevent spread?

The point about masks, etc. not being part of uniform code is completely moot. The world has completely changed. All the rules have changed. Absolutely nothing is as it was, yet the Corrections workers still show up. Every day they are on the front lines keeping you and your families, and the rest of us safe regardless of the fact that COVID-19 is just beginning to affect the prisons. They then however risk bringing it home to their families and community. Correction facilities are one of the most confined areas in the nation with 1.3 million incarcerated in state prisons, 3/4 of a million in local jails, nearly 200,000 in federal prisons and 43,000 in NYS prisons alone living in extremely close quarters.

If NYS is leading the way to be a teaching point for other states to follow, as you our governor stated, we should teach them the correct way. As of 3/25/2020, 75 NYC inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 and 37 Corrections staff members, up from 50 inmates and 30 staffers the previous day. Sharp spikes in positive tests should be a warning to those in charge of the realization that it could bloom into our nation’s first major outbreak inside a correctional facility, spread to others and then the communities. Those responsible for protecting you and your loved ones, me and my loved ones and everyone else at the risk of their own lives, need to be protected. They need the governor to stop the inmate transfers and provide masks, gloves and other equipment to corrections workers to do the job they are expected to do and are willingly doing, showing up in order to protect us all.

Joanne Johnson