NY union wants visitation suspended after uptick in COVID-19 prison cases

There have been 889 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 108 active cases, in the prison system


By Robert Harding
The Citizen

GREENE COUNTY, N.Y. — The union representing New York correction officers is calling on the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to suspend visitation after an increase in COVID-19 cases in prisons.

DOCCS reported on Wednesday that there have been 889 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 108 active cases, in the prison system. More than 70 inmates at Greene Correctional Facility have tested positive for the virus, while there are over 30 cases involving inmates and staff at Elmira Correctional Facility.

No cases have been reported among the inmate populations at Auburn and Cayuga correctional facilities in Cayuga County.

Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, noted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced measures to address COVID-19 clusters in different areas of the state. He thinks there should be a similar approach with prisons where there are surges in confirmed cases.

"Visitation should be immediately suspended at hotspot facilities and DOCCS should require anyone who visits an incarcerated inmate provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the last 14 days," Powers said.

DOCCS suspended visitation at its 52 correctional facilities in mid-March when the COVID-19 outbreak began in New York. After nearly five months, the state resumed visitation in early August.

When DOCCS announced that visitors would be allowed in state prisons, the agency said that its guidelines "are subject to change and visitation could again be suspended should there be an increased infection rate at one or more facilities, or if conditions change in the community."

Before visitors enter the prisons, they must be screened and have their temperature checked. Masks are mandated during the visit.

But with the spike in cases in at least two correctional facilities, NYSCOPBA hopes DOCCS takes action.

"Nursing homes across the state have had serious restrictions placed on them when it pertains to family visitation," Powers said. "Should similar standards be put in place at state prisons for those wishing to visit convicted felons? Staff should expect no less protections from our governor and DOCCS."

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©2020 The Citizen, Auburn, N.Y.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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