Coronvirus continues to spread in prisons and jails throughout New York State. According to the state officials, 105 prison employees and 14 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) has declined to say which prisons have positive cases, citing security concerns, though at least two correctional facilities in the North Country have confirmed cases.
An inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora tested positive last week and an additional person at the prison is considered a “probable case.”
Meanwhile, an employee at the federal prison in Ray Brook in Essex County and a corrections officer at Franklin Correctional Facility in Malone tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
John Roberts from the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association said the officer is a 24 year old from St. Lawrence County. The officer, who is self-isolating at home, relayed a message through Roberts.
"Tell them I am doing well, taking it day by day," the officer said, "spending most of the days sleeping. Symptoms seem to come and go in waves."
Testing continues to be serverely limited in the North Country and across New York. Health officials say confirmed cases are likely being undercounted.
NCPR spoke with corrections officers at Ray Brook and Clinton, both of whom said they're concerned about the coronvirus spreading in their facilities. The officer from Clinton, who did not want to be identified by name, said he does not think DOCCS is prepared for the pandemic.
“I fear that [coronavirus] is going to go throughout the prison like wildfire."
There are more than 9,000 people incarcerated in state prisons across the North Country and hundreds more work inside these facilities.
DOCCS considers many of its employees essential, including: peace officers, all inmate record coordinators, all medical staff, food service staff, plant operations staff, staff assigned to commissary operations, and all staff involved in Board of Parole activities.
According to DOCCS, a prison superintendant can change an employee's designation as either essential or non-essential based on operational needs of the facility.