State prison staff contracting coronavirus at double the rate of the general population

Local News

ALDEN, N.Y. (WIVB) – Five hundred and eighty-one of the roughly 29,000 people who work for the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision have contracted coronavirus, according to the latest stats released by officials for that department. That represents about two percent of its workforce, or one out of every 50 employees.

“Officers interact with each other just to perform the job,” pointed out Mark DeBurgomaster, Western Region Vice President for NYSCOPBA, the union which represents corrections officers.

Among the general population statewide roughly 195,000 people, or one out of every 100 people, have or had the coronavirus. Meanwhile, one out of roughly every 300 inmates have contracted the disease, according to DOCCS numbers.

DOCCS does not say how many employees or inmates have been tested on its website.

At Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, DeBurgomaster says 85 officers are currently quarantined and not reporting for work. He says DOCCS is being “responsive”, and not proactive when it comes to the coronavirus crisis.

DOCCS began allowing prison staff to wear masks on April 1st, after NYSCOPBA has requested they be able to. Initially, the state said they would not provide the masks to staff, however DeBurgomaster says they later began to do so.

“Officers are being issued one surgical mask and being told that’s all they’re going to get,” DeBurgomaster said. “So the have to reuse that disposable surgical mask on a daily basis.”

A DOCCS spokesperson sent News 4 a list of 16 things he says they have done to curb the spread of coronavirus in state prison facilities. They include suspending visitation and most inmate transfers. The state is also requiring non-essential DOCCS staff to stay home. Staff is required to complete a health/travel questionnaire before entering the facility.

DeBurgomaster said the union has now purchased a total of 120,000 masks for staff, but is still waiting to receive those shipments.

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