The coronavirus has made its way to New York City’s most notorious jail, Rikers Island, and other city jails. According to ABC, 38 people, including inmates and staff, have been diagnosed with the virus. This is the biggest jail outbreak since the virus came to the U.S.
It’s been reported that 12 Department of Correction employees, five Correctional Health Services employees and 21 inmates at New York City jails have the virus. There are also 58 people being monitored in the jail’s contagious disease and quarantine units.
“It is likely these people have been in hundreds of housing areas and common areas over recent weeks and have been in close contact with many other people in custody and staff,” Board of Correction interim chairwoman Jacqueline Sherman wrote in a statement. “The best path forward to protecting the community of people housed and working in the jails is to rapidly decrease the number of people housed and working in them.”
The first incarcerated person diagnosed with COVID-19 was housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY. A few days after being at the facility, he complained of chest pains and later tested positive after being taken to a nearby hospital. He is now back at the jail in isolation.
While New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is working on releasing 56 inmates soon, Bianca Tylek, the executive director of national criminal justice advocacy organization of Worth Rises, stated that releasing more could help slow the spread of COVID-19. She said there are more than 56 inmates that are eligible to be released as well.
“There are nearly 1,500 people incarcerated on Rikers Island for low level offenses or technical parole violations who can be released immediately,” she told ABC. “Releasing them would reduce their risk of infection, reduce the risk for all those who remain incarcerated, and reduce the spread of the virus into the public.”
Right now, New York City over 10,000 coronavirus cases. Half of those diagnosed are under 50, debunking the reports that the older population were the most vulnerable.