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LAS Mourns the Loss of Another Incarcerated New Yorker to COVID-19

The Legal Aid Society mourns the loss of another New Yorker who passed away from COVID-19 in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) at Fishkill Correctional Facility, and condemns DOCCS for allowing yet another virus outbreak, this time at Elmira Correctional Facility.

As of October 19, 2020, 78 people at Elmira have tested positive for COVID-19, up from only three on October 1, 2020, according to the New York Daily News. Since March, 18 New Yorkers have died in DOCCS’ custody from COVID-19 and over 970 have tested positive. For those who have been infected, the lingering effects and long-term complications of the virus remain unknown.

Just last week, The Legal Aid Society warned that the current COVID-19 surge at Greene Correctional Facility portends a second wave of infection within New York State prisons. 100 incarcerated New Yorkers have now tested positive for COVID-19 at Greene, an increase of 86 cases in just two weeks.

In June, The Legal Aid Society condemned DOCCS for refusing to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testing protocols specific to correctional settings. The CDC calls for universal and regularly recurring testing of everyone residing or working in correctional settings. DOCCS’ testing practices, which are constantly shifting and have never been fully revealed, fall far short of these recommendations. DOCCS still tests an insufficient number of incarcerated people and, by all appearances, refuses to test most people more than once.

“These deaths could have been avoided had Governor Cuomo and DOCCS prioritized the release of people especially vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Stefen Short, Supervising Attorney of the Prisoners’ Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society. “We again call on Albany to release our clients and others who are vulnerable to COVID-19. If Albany persists in its failure to act, deaths will continue to mount.”