COXSACKIE — As COVID-19 cases rise at Greene Correctional Facility, the state’s most powerful law enforcement union is calling for a stop to prison visitations.
The New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association wants inmate visitation to be suspended due to the high number of cases.
Greene Correctional Facility ranked fourth among state correctional facilities for the most cases with 89 as of Wednesday. The facility follows Green Haven with 129 cases, Fishkill with 113 and Shawangunk with 101.
The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision conducted tests on 1,100 inmates with results expected by the end of the week.
Greene Correctional Facility has 1,157 inmates in its custody and employs 652 people. Across the state, 1,375 correctional employees have tested positive.
“Gov. Cuomo unveiled new lockdown measures for recent ‘micro-clusters’ in and around the New York City area that are surging and similar lockdown measures should be applied to state prisons where the coronavirus is surging,” according to a statement from the union. “Visitation should be immediately suspended at hot spot facilities and DOCCS should require anyone who visits an incarcerated inmate provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the last 14 days.”
Visitation at maximum-security facilities resumed Aug. 5 and visitation at all other state correctional facilities resumed Aug. 8.
The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has not implemented any changes to visitation, spokesman Thomas Mailey said.
“At this time there are no changes expected regarding visitation this weekend at Greene Correctional Facility,” Mailey said. “As DOCCS continues to implement our reopening plan, the department’s greatest concern, as always, remains the health, safety and well-being of our employees, as well as everyone placed within our care, custody and supervision, and the surrounding community.”
The union drew parallels between the guidelines for nursing homes and prisons.
“Nursing homes across the state have had serious restrictions placed on them when it pertains to family visitation,” according to the union. “Should similar standards be put in place at state prisons for those wishing to visit convicted felons? Staff should expect no less protections from our governor and DOCCS.”
Visitation at nursing homes was shut down in March and resumed in July with strict guidance.
To offer visitation services, nursing homes cannot have any new COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period. Nursing home staff must be tested twice per week and the facility must have the capacity to test all residents if necessary, according to the state Department of Health.
Corrections staff can request a COVID test through their physician or visit a state testing site, Mailey said.
Staff are subject to daily health screenings including temperature checks, Mailey said. All staff identified as part of a contact trace are quarantined and referred to a testing site.
Nursing home visitors must provide a negative COVID-19 test from within the past seven days, as well as complete a health screening prior to their visit. End-of-life visits are not subject to the negative test requirement but the health screening still applies, according to the state Department of Health.
Visitors to state correctional facilities must complete a health questionnaire and have their temperatures checked, Mailey said.
Nursing home residents can only have two visitors at a time and visitors cannot exceed 10% of the resident population.
State prisons limit visitors to three per inmate, according to the DOCCS reopening plan.
Visitation is prohibited in resident rooms at nursing homes and should be outdoors if possible, or in a well-ventilated space with no more than 10 individuals who are socially distanced and wearing face masks, according to the state Department of Health. Nursing homes are encouraged to use alternative visitation methods such as Skype or Facetime if the resident is bedbound.
Correctional facilities will also move visits outdoors when possible, according to the DOCCS reopening plan, and inmates, visitors and staff are required to wear face masks.
Nursing home residents who test positive for the virus, show symptoms or are in quarantine are not eligible for visitation, according to the state Department of Health.
State correctional facilities are isolating and testing all inmates showing symptoms, conducting contact tracing and quarantining and testing inmates who are identified as part of the contact trace, Mailey said.
“Those individuals in isolation or quarantine are not eligible for visits,” Mailey said. “DOCCS has implemented strict screening of all visits and protocols for visits, including the mandatory wearing of masks by all parties.”
Inmates transferring from a county jail to a state correctional facility must test negative for the virus before being transferred, Mailey said.