Legal Guide

Rikers Island officials are worried they cannot stop Corona Virus spread because they lack protocols

In the midst of the pandemic, when hygiene and distancing are essential, Rikers Island officials state that they are worried they won’t be able to manage a COVID-19 situation inside the correctional center. Prisoners are packed on top of each other and don’t receive the needed drugs and care; they need to fight the virus. 

The personnel from Rikers Island states that it’s the first time in the history of the institution when they cannot prevent or contain the chaos. The jail system isn’t ready to face a pandemic. The management of the jail complex didn’t offer their employees guidelines on how to deal with the situation. There are no masks for correction officers or inmates, and they lack cleaning supplies like bleach and hand sanitizer. 

Some employees are also afraid that they may pass the disease to their families when they go home because they have no other place where to isolate themselves during the crisis. Inmates are also panicked and try to stay away from everyone who shows disease signs. It’s likely the inmates to become aggressive with their colleagues if they show symptoms of flu. But considering the crowded space, it’s almost impossible to maintain a safe distance, especially in the cells. 

The state’s Department of Corrections fails to create a safe environment

Even if the USA is dealing with a significant crisis, the state’s Department of Corrections hasn’t enhanced the protocols to implement sophisticated medical measures. They follow the standard policies when an inmate doesn’t feel well, they ask the corrections officer to see a doctor. The workers accuse the institution of adopting a reactionary attitude. Instead of trying to prevent contamination, the management waits for the first COVID-19 cases to appear. Both inmates and staff are afraid they’ll get sick.

On April 5, seven inmates have been tested with the Coronavirus at Pelican Bay State Prison, two at Northwest Florida, and two at Mission Institution. The numbers concern correction officers because it shows that the virus can enter even a secured facility. They’re aware that once the COVID-19 is introduced in the premises, they’ll find it challenging or even impossible to control its spread. Daniel Nagin, a professor of public policy at Carnegie Mellon, states that it’s understandable that the prison staff is worried about the work environment and the effect the virus can have on their life. He expects workers and inmates from all correctional institutions to address this problem sooner or later. 

New York is the epicenter of the pandemic

Only in New York City, the daily inmate population reaches around 9,000 people. According to, Rikers Island has eight facilities and everyday houses around 6000 people. At present, only in New York, there are 92.000 incarcerated people, but across the USA, there are over 2 million. As the coronavirus crisis spreads across the states, scientists and doctors state that prison personnel and inmates are at high risk because they work/stay in a closed space. Inmates live in close quarters, and they spend most of their time in dirty communal areas. At Rikers Island, the beds are two and a half feet from each other, and the only solution officials found to this problem was to ask inmates to sleep head to foot. But, this measure doesn’t protect people because they cannot maintain a safe distance from their colleagues. The officials have also canceled visitation entirely, to lower the chances outsiders to bring the virus inside.

New York is the epicenter of the pandemic in the USA, and it comprises half of the USA cases. As a response to the fear of getting sick and getting their families infected, many correctional officers across the state called out sick. The sense of fear extends far beyond correctional institutions, and an official guide from the state’s Department of Corrections is highly needed. 

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