News 03.18.20

Innocence Project responds to first case of COVID-19 reported at Rikers Island

By Innocence Staff

A Rikers Island Visit Bus turning north from Fulton Mall onto Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn. [Tdorante10/Wikimedia Commons]

Today, the first case of COVID-19 was reported among a Rikers Island detainee. According to the New York Daily News, this is the first person in New York City custody to contract the virus. 

As the COVID-19 epidemic continues, immediate action must be taken to reduce the devastation to people who are incarcerated, their families and our shared community. People behind bars endure substandard health care and live in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions, where social distancing is not an option. At the current rate of infection, thousands of people behind bars could become infected and sick. Today’s news about the first case at Rikers is what we have been fearing.

Releasing as many people as possible will reduce the number impacted and the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks for those behind bars. And for people who remain behind bars, access to COVID-19 testing, prevention and medical care is critical, as are free phone calls to facilitate communication with families and attorneys during this crisis.

The legal and policy experts at The Justice Collaborative provided the following guidelines to protect people in custody from the spread of COVID-19:

For more information about how this epidemic is impacting people in prison follow:

How you can help:

  • Send a letter to your local jail, asking them to make video and phone calls free for people in custody. More information here
  • Donate to your local bail fund. Take a look at organizations that work in your state here

Please share any critical resources or funds we should consider including above in the comments below.

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