With COVID-19 cases once again surging across the state, one culprit of spread is the New York State Prison system. NYSCOPBA leadership is calling on the Deparment of Corrections and Community Supervision to step up and do more to prevent the spread.

Michael Powers is the President of the New York State Correctional Officers Police Benevolent Association. Last week, he called on DOCCS to take immediate action as the number of cases in the prison system continue to grow.

Powers says, "We are requesting that all non-essential inmate movement cease, visitations be paused and inmates be placed in an ‘every other cubical’ setting inside prison dormitories." With all the restrictions being put back in place, one that is not is prison visitation. Not only does it put the prison community at risk, but with numbers increasing it could lead to visitors being infected and spreading.

This current request is no different than what prison system workers were asking for in the first wave of the Coronavirus. Union officials say, "The union’s insistence on these preventative measures is the primary reason that the infection rate remained so low inside the prison system for several months." Now, with the relaxing of those restrictions, they feel that is a primary contributor to the increase in cases.

Bryan Hluska is the Central Region Vice President of NYSCOPBA. He says that visitation and inmate transfers are still happening and he doesn't understand why the allowance has not been rescinded. With Oneida County seeing 255 new positive cases Thursday, the prison system is surely a contributing factor. Hluska expects to give WIBX a full reporting of case numbers at each of the prisons in the county on Friday.

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