The number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in New York City’s prison population (both workers and inmates) has more than doubled in just two days.
As of Wednesday morning, New York City’s Department of Correction reported that 75 people in the city’s jail system have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and that 37 of them are facility personnel. This is a dramatic increase since the weekend , when officials reported 17 workers and 21 prisoners were infected. The number of infected inmates jumped to 50 on Monday and continues to increase.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that New York will release another 300 nonviolent inmates from Rikers Island who have been serving sentences of less than a year for misdemeanors. But he said that his authority as mayor to free people from jail is limited and he needs the state and prosecutors to help increase those numbers.
This should be a high priority for state and local governments around the country. The prison complex needs its own system to “flatten the curve” and reduce disease transmission. New York City has 5,000 inmates, in close quarters, mostly on Rikers Island. They are not engaged in “social distancing.” Health officials warn that Rikers will essentially become an incubator to spread the virus.
“We cannot socially distance dozens of elderly men living in a dorm, sharing a bathroom,” tweeted Ross Macdonald, chief physician of Rikers Island, last week. “Think of a cruise ship recklessly boarding more passengers each day.”
Meanwhile, the New York Police Department is reporting that […]