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LAS Calls on DOC to Protect Incarcerated New Yorkers From COVID-19

The Legal Aid Society called on the New York City Department of Correction (DOC) to ensure that incarcerated New Yorkers are protected from COVID-19 amid reports from clients concerning the lack of basic sanitation measures to prevent the spread of the virus at local jails, as reported by The Appeal.

Clients in several facilities in the borough jails and on Rikers Island reported that they do not have access to soap (or hand sanitizer, which is treated as contraband) in their housing units. Some have been told by DOC officers that if they want soap, they must buy it from the commissary. Clients also lack basic cleaning supplies necessary to disinfect the areas in which they live, and report that cleaning protocols identified by DOC for common spaces and showers were not being followed.

Alarmingly, even the North Infirmary Command, which houses people with acute medical conditions, lacks sufficient cleaning supplies. On Sunday, DOC confirmed that an employee had died from the coronavirus.

“We expressed concerns about DOC’s preparedness for this pandemic because we all know that cases of COVID-19 in City jails are an inevitability. In light of this confirmed case, we implore the City to act immediately to protect all people in the facilities—both people in custody and staff,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society.