Report: Coronavirus Is Putting The US Prison Population At Risk - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

The global spread of the coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, has left many communities in shambles; trying to their best to contain and combat the spread of the disease. For one group of Americans, the virus has left them both exposed and abandoned by their government—the prison population.

The coronavirus has officially entered the prison system. The New York Daily News reported this week that an inmate from Rikers Island in New York City had tested positive for the virus. While the infected individual has been quarantined from the general population, prisons are the ideal setting for an outbreak to spread quickly. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that the Office of Criminal Justice is working with others in custody and at high risk of becoming infected to potentially be removed.

“When are we going to get a public explanation from the mayor about the city’s plan to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the jail system?” said VOCAL-NY’s Civil Rights Campaign Director Nick Encalada-Malinowski to the New York Daily News. “It’s just another indication that this administration does not give a damn about incarcerated people, their families or their communities.”

The Legal Aid Society is also calling for most suspects to be set free during the coronavirus crisis. Many critics have said that inmates who are infected and are ill should be up for release to go to a proper facility for treatment. New York has become one of several states where the prison population is becoming more and more at risk to infection.

“Today’s confirmed case is more reason why New Yorkers currently incarcerated in the city jails must be screened and released from custody immediately,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Rights Practice at Legal Aid. “Over the past week, we have received multiple complaints from clients concerning the lack of basic sanitation measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at local jails, and the situation will undoubtedly get worse in the coming days.”