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Family of inmate concerned about coronavirus outbreak in NYS prisons

Emily De Vito
Updated: March 19, 2020 11:12 PM
Created: March 19, 2020 10:32 PM

Some family members of those in prison are wondering how the state plans to deal with a potential outbreak of the coronavirus behind bars.

"We feel like we're being forgotten about,” said Jolene Russ from Schoharie.

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Bryon Russ, Jolene’s husband, is an inmate at Elmira Correctional Facility. She said she feels no one is addressing her concerns or questions about what’s being done inside prisons to stop the potential spread. 

“Right now in Elmira, where Bryon is, that's a reception facility,” explained Russ. “They receive all the people that come from the western counties that are coming from the jails. They haven't answered to us if that movement is going to stop. A lot of officials are saying that’s where the spread will come from, people coming in and out from other jails and from employees coming in and out from the communities."

Department of Corrections and Community Supervision spokesman Thomas Mailey released the following statement:

“The Department continues to focus on the safety and well-being of staff and the incarcerated population, including this morning’s action of suspending all intake of incarcerated individuals from county facilities. DOCCS has made a number of changes to normal procedures, including suspending visitation until April 11, and continues to evaluate internal transfers of individuals to ensure all the necessary safety measures are in place. Thus far, the Department has begun limiting transfers into some areas and is reducing the number of individuals moved at one time.  We will continue to monitor and explore all options.”

Russ said she is concerned they’re not practicing social distancing or reducing density.

"They're still moving in groups of 75 to meals,” said Russ. “They're in a cafeteria with 75 other individuals plus staff it's probably close to 100 at a time. If these outbreaks happen they're exposing that many people. In between movement things aren’t being wiped down and sanitized."

DOCCS said they have placed posters in facilities informing inmates about COVID-19 and are showing inmates videos on proper hand washing. DOCCS confirmed a correction officer at Sing Sing Correctional Facility tested positive for coronavirus as did a civilian staff member in the Albany area.

Russ said as we’re hearing this news, this is why it’s important to hear about a plan.

“Just show us the contingency plan that at level 1 awareness this is what we're thinking about, at level 2 awareness something of any kind of nature that can show us that you put real thought into caring, managing and keeping our loved ones safe and healthy,” said Russ.


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