COXSACKIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The cell door is shut on all visits to Greene Correctional Facility as of 3 p.m. Wednesday. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision will also offer free voluntary testing to all staff, according to Mike Powers of the New York State Corrections Officers and Police Benevolent Association.
“I got off a call with DOCCS this morning, and it seems some of our long-time asks are coming to fruition,” says Powers.
Powers says the new limitation and offer will also apply to Elmira Correctional Facility, that has seen a similar spike to the one at Greene Correctional. However, Greene County leaders say this slow response to the quick rise in COVID-19 cases is still lacking.
“This is just a delayed reaction rather than being proactive and getting on top of it right from the beginning,” says Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger.
Local and state legislators joined Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden Wednesday to call out New York State for failing to put solid COVID-19 infection control policies in state prisons.
“We’re into this eight months now, how has the state not addressed this?” asks Groden.
“This is more of a desperate plea at this point. This is not the first notification that the governor’s office will have on these requests,” says Linger.
Already, positive Greene Correctional staff have spread their sickness to a nearby elementary school and a Columbia County nursing home, Groden confirms. These leaders now ask DOCCS to follow the Department of Health example and mandate prison staff get tested regularly, just like in nursing homes.
“We’re not testing correctional officers once a week, why? The same facility, you have limited contact, you have less mobility, you have a frail population, you have the same consequence in a prison,” says Groden.
Groden also renews his call to Governor Cuomo to stop counting COVID positive inmates in the county numbers that decide reopening.
“The hundred inmates that are in Greene are not going to be going to the movies this Saturday, yet that count is being held against us and our businesses and our economy,” he continues.
These leaders also call out DOCCS claiming there’s next to no communication or transparency.
“Had we been notified early enough on of testing in the facility, the potential would have existed to quarantine and isolate that staff member who then transferred it to a school student or to a nursing home,” Linger says.
“We need better communication. We need to work together. Let’s do something here before this problem gets much bigger than it is, and let’s do everything we can to not have the same problem we had with the nursing homes,” says Assemblyman Chris Tague.