COVID-19 hit City and State correctional facilities hard.
By Forum Staff
Two members of the State Legislature recently joined in authoring a letter calling for the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and State Commission on Correction to provide data about thedeaths of incarcerated individuals from COVID-19.
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Richmond Hill) and State Sen. Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx) demanded the data about coronavirus-related deaths for all people in NYS DOCCS’s custody, regardless of the location of death of each individual, including:
- Statistical data for each person found to have died of COVID-19 or where the virus is suspected of having contributed to the death, including a breakdown of this information by race, ethnicity, age at the time of death, location of death (hospital, correctional facility, RHMU, local jail, etc.), the correctional facility housed prior to transfer to a medical unit or regional hospital, and county of commitment.
- Data on the deaths of all individuals in DOCCS’s custody classified by month from January 2015 to May 2020, including data on deaths by race, ethnicity, age at the time of death, location of death (hospital, correctional facility, RHMU, local jail, etc.), the correctional facility housed prior to transfer to a medical unit or regional hospital, and county of commitment.
- The methodology used in gathering data related the deaths of individuals in DOCCS’s custody, specifically: how the Department counts an inmate death when an individual in DOCCS’s custody dies in: (a) a correctional facility; (b) in transport to another facility, hospital or other location; (c) an area hospital; and (d) a DOCCS Regional Medical Unit.
Weprin and Sepúlveda also requested that all death reports for people in prison, as compiled by the State Commission on Correction, be delivered to the Executive and Legislature, without significant delay. This request comes after the enactment of legislation signed into law in April requiring that death reports not be redacted except as otherwise required to protect the confidential medical and behavioral health records in accordance with state and federal laws; which effectively expanded the Legislature’s ability to obtain and review pertinent information regarding the deaths of inmates held in or sentenced to New York’s prisons and jails.
Receiving critical information and data related to the deaths of prisoners, including statistical information on deaths by race, ethnicity, and age, will allow the State of New York to better understand the effects, spread and efforts to contain COVID-19 in correctional facilities, and provide both the Executive and Legislature insight into as to any racial, ethnic, or age disparities in relation to individual deaths in DOCCS custody, the elected officials said.
“We know that New York State correctional facilities were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital for us as legislators and community members to have complete and accurate data, including demographics, on all deaths of people incarcerated in NY’s facilities, to fully understand the impact of COVID-19 in the correctional system. At a time of national reckoning on the systemic racial inequalities in our society and public protection agencies, this data is all the more important,” said Sepúlveda, chairman of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections.