UPDATE: The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision released the following statement following Representative Elise Stefanik’s call to halt prison visits amid rising numbers of COVID-19 cases:

“Every facet of the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been guided by facts, scientific data, and the guidance of public health experts at NYS DOH and the CDC, and the work of DOCCS to protect the safety of New York’s corrections staff and incarcerated population is no different. DOCCS is currently following all NYS DOH guidelines regarding congregate settings at each of its facilities.

Per the DOCCS website COVID-19 Report – https://doccs.ny.gov/doccs-covid-19-report, as a result of the significant increase in COVID-19 infections at the Attica, Auburn and Cayuga Correctional Facilities, effective Dec. 8, 2020, at 3 p.m., visitation at the three facilities is temporarily suspended until further notice.

In addition, visitation at the Elmira and Southport Correctional Facilities, which are located within an “orange” zone, and the Greene Correctional Facility remains temporarily suspended. 

The Department takes seriously its duty to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those that work and live in our correctional facilities.  During this difficult time, the Department is appreciative of everyone’s patience and understanding as we continue to face this virus together.

In response to this extraordinary circumstance, DOCCS has and continues to alter longstanding policies, in accordance with CDC and DOH guidelines, and create new policies to protect the health and wellbeing of staff and incarcerated individuals while working to protect public health and public safety. As such, the Department continuously reviews all options, as circumstances arise, with the guidance of the NYS DOH.

DOCCS has recently developed, in consultation with DOH, an asymptomatic surveillance testing plan that will allow for a number of incarcerated individuals from each facility to be tested every weekday, from multiple housing units, in order to avert potential outbreaks and target resources to facilities and housing units identified as a potential problem.

The asymptomatic surveillance testing plan is in addition to testing individuals who display symptoms and those who are identified as part of a contact trace. Incarcerated individuals displaying symptoms are immediately isolated and tested. If a positive case is confirmed, a contact trace is conducted and those identified are quarantined and tested. Any individual that is COVID-19 positive or in quarantine as part of a contact trace is not allowed a visit. It is critical that both staff and incarcerated individuals continue to follow the protocols in place, which include the mandatory use of masks for all staff, visitors and incarcerated individuals when participating in activities.”

New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWTI) – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is calling on New York State to halt prison visits for all state facilities in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases among inmates and staff.

Stefanik and New York State Corrections Officers Police Benevolent Association are urging the state to restrict visitations to their facilities in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 among staff and inmates.

According to a press release from Congresswoman Stefanik’s office, she has repeatedly called on Governor Cuomo to suspend inmate transfers and implement further precautions in state prison facilities.

“Once again, Governor Cuomo is failing to address the valid concerns expressed by our corrections officers who have continued working in state prison facilities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, putting their personal health and safety on the line,” Congresswoman Stefanik said.

“I have spoken directly with countless correction officers who are rightfully concerned about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in our North Country prisons. The state must take proactive measures to stop in-person prison visits as a method of reducing exposure for the inmates and the correction officers. I continue to remain in close contact with our county public health officials to monitor this situation, and I urge the Governor to take immediate action to keep our inmates, corrections officers, and their families safe.”

“As COVID-19 cases continue to surge throughout the state and new restrictions on the public are inevitable, now is the time for the Governor and DOCCS to stop all visitations, unnecessary programs and transportation, to help stop the spread of the virus in state prisons,” John Roberts, Northern Region Vice President for NYSCOPBA, said. “Staff have been essential employees from day one of the pandemic and they deserve to have the safest work environment possible.”

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