Three inmates of New York’s Adirondack Correctional Facility are suing the state, along with its governor and correctional department, for allegedly endangering older inmates at increased risk for novel coronaviruses.
According to The Adirondack Daily Enterprise, plaintiffs are represented in litigation by Relman Colfax PLLC and the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project. They are supported by the Campaign for the Release of Aging People in Prison, which is a co-plaintiff who signed the lawsuit.
The Daily Enterprise notes that the lawsuit alleges and attempts to define the “intentional indifference” allegedly shown to the health and safety of inmates.
The Adirondack Correctional Facility, according to plaintiffs, lacks basic procedures and protocols to mitigate the coronavirus. The prison does not offer regular tests for COVID-19, nor does it maintain a specific protection protocol.
Inter-facility busing, meals, and transfers are also conducted without regard to disease transmission or social distancing.
The Intercept reports that Adirondack can be particularly vulnerable to coronavirus outbreaks. This is because the New York Justice Department appears to have treated the prison like an inmate “nursing home”, with the medically vulnerable and elderly inmates being brought there en masse.
Photo by Federico Lancellotti on Unsplash
However, public health officials appear to have not followed a set protocol to ensure the transferred prisoners were not already infected with COVID-19. In some cases, inmates have been removed from facilities with known coronavirus outbreaks and then introduced into the general Adirondack population without testing or mandatory quarantine.
“By nature,” the lawsuit states, “detainees brought to Adirondack are old, frail, and not threatening.” These are exactly the people DOCCS should prioritize in light of the COVID-19 crisis. “
One of the main goals of the lawsuit is to release elderly prisoners who are both at risk for novel coronavirus and unlikely to be reoffended in the outside world. Stefen Short, an attorney for Legal Aid’s Prisoners’ Rights Project, suggested that New York is acting irresponsibly by shuffling vulnerable inmates around instead of letting them go home.
“Essentially, the state started moving people instead of releasing them halfway through the ongoing pandemic,” Short said. “The department has very unsafe practices in the transfer of people to Adirondack, including not quarantining people on arrival, not screening people prior to transfer, and referring people directly to the general population without any steps to ensure that they do not have COVID or have not been in contact with anyone who has COVID.
“And,” added Short, “the conditions at Adirondack are completely inadequate to protect people.”
For example, Adirondack doesn’t allow prisoners to eat alone in their cells – instead, it forces inmates to eat together in a large communal hall where COVID-19 could easily spread.
The Daily Enterprise states that between March and April of this year, New York converted the correctional center from a juvenile detention center to a retirement home.
The lawsuit finds that of the 96 people currently detained at Adirondack Correctional, half are between the ages of 60 and 65 and the other half are over 65. Statistically, the coronavirus is most likely to hospitalize or kill people aged 65 or over with mortality, and hospitalization rates are still significantly higher for all Americans by the age of 60 than for younger adults.
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Three inmates at Adirondack Prison are suing the state over COVID conditions