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NYC Will Release Some Inmates In City Jails To Prevent Spread Of Coronavirus + COVID-19 Arrives At Rikers Island

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Mayor Bill de Blasio announced certain inmates will be released from NYC jails in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Also, COVID-19 has arrived at Rikers Island. One inmate and one correctional officer have tested positive for the deadly virus. More inside…

 

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has reached Rikers Island and now Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to release inmates to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. Mayor de Blasio reportedly plans to release “vulnerable” inmates from city jails to help prevent the spread of the virus into local lockups.

“In the next 48 hours, we will identify any inmates who need to be brought out because of either their own health conditions — if they have any pre-existing conditions, etc. — or because the charges were minor and we think it’s appropriate to bring them out in this context,” Mayor de Blasio said on WCBS radio Wednesday (March 18th). “That said, we still need our criminal justice system to function,” he added.

The news of releasing inmates from NYC jails comes after one inmate and one correctional officer at Rikers tested positive for the virus.

The NY Post reports:

The first Rikers Island inmate tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday — hours after a correction officer at the city jail also confirmed they had the deadly illness.

The second case on the island in 24 hours signaled the possibility of an outbreak at the jail, the head of the corrections officers’ union said. Elias Husamudeen, the president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, urged the board of corrections to “implement their contingency plans” after the inmate tested positive.

“This crisis will grow worse with each passing day. Give us the help we need now!” he said in a statement.

The CO who contracted the virus worked security for the front gate at a jail facility on Rikers Island. Also, a New York City Department of Corrections employee died on Tuesday (March 17th) after being diagnosed with the coronavirus. It’s reported the male employee had only “limited contact” with people in custody. 

Accounts from Rikers Island inmates are coming in and they aren't good ones, obviously: 

The accounts that are trickling out from Rikers are not encouraging. Last week, a man with a medical history that makes him especially vulnerable to contracting coronavirus, housed in a special-housing unit in one Rikers jail, called a social worker twice in one day to report that he was exhibiting symptoms of disease. Others in his special housing unit were coughing and exhibiting flu-like symptoms, the man told the social worker, who relayed the account to a lawyer who asked that they all remain anonymous to avoid reprisals. The men in the unit were told that there were not enough correction officers to transport them to the health clinic.

Kelsey de Avila, director of jail services for Brooklyn Defender Services, another public defender organization, said she spoke with two incarcerated people on Monday who described both a lack of information and the absence of basic sanitation. “Of the two men I spoke to, one said no one had come to talk to him about what’s happening at all, and he hadn’t seen any posters in his housing area or the halls he’s walking in,” de Avila said. “The other man said someone had come in and told people they should wash their hands and cover their mouth when they cough.”

One of the people de Avila spoke to said someone on his unit had been coughing all day. “We don’t know what it is, if he just has a cough, if he’s seen medical staff or not,” she said. “But that’s part of the point: Our client doesn’t have any information, and he’s nervous.” The man asked a correction officer if they could move their beds, he told de Avila. “The CO said, ‘Yeah, do whatever you want.’ It’s not really the level of response we need in this situation.”

Especially concerning is incarcerated people’s limited access to sanitation. Those in jail can buy soap from the commissary, if they can afford it. Otherwise, they’re dependent on the general-issue soap. The man de Avila spoke with in dorm housing said his unit had about 30 to 40 people in it, with an attached bathroom with eight to 10 sinks. “Each sink has its own bar of soap, which you’re sharing with 30 or 40 people,” she said. “He went to the bathroom this morning, and every bar of soap was missing. Did someone throw them out? Was someone hoarding them? We don’t know. But, as of noon that day, no one had replaced them.”

Scary.

 

Before Mayor de Blasio made his announcement, NYC Defenders called for immediate release of vulnerable incarcerated New Yorkers in fear of an outbreak:

 

 

Ross MacDonald - Chief Physician of Rikers Island - started a Twitter thread asking judges and prosecutors of New York for help:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts?

 

 

EXTRAS:

 

1. About 50 churchgoers have tested positive for the Coronavirus after a South Korea church official sprayed saltwater into the mouths of dozens of followers under the false belief it would help prevent the spread of the virus. STORY

2. A Louisiana pastor is reportedly continuing to hold packed church services for over 1,000 people. Sir.  STORY

3.  The California Governor says Martial Law is a possibility if people don't take heed to the quarantine requests.  Also, the Mayor of Miami has effectively closed public beaches this morning after Spring Breakers thought it was a good idea to YOLO their way there IN CROWDS without social distancing. STORY

 

Photo: rblfmr/Shutterstock.com

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