To score political points, Queens assembly candidate ignores COVID-19 spread inside public jails

April 13, 2020

To score political points, Queens assembly candidate ignores COVID-19 spread inside public jails

By Alexandra Wilkes
Queens Daily Eagle

It’s shameful to see Assembly candidate Khaleel Anderson play politics with the serious issue of COVID-19 spreading in New York’s prison system (OPINION: COVID-19 crisis highlights need to close private jails and prisons, Queens Daily Eagle, April 8, 2020).

Rather than addressing the life-threatening crisis happening today at publicly-run New York City and state jails – a problem he’d be asked to help solve if elected to the Assembly – Mr. Anderson is out trying to score political points.

He should start by learning the facts. First, the Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care whether a prison facility is operated by a government agency or a private-sector contractor.

Case in point: Public-run prisons in New York City and state have been a COVID-19 mess. It’s been reported that more than 700 inmates and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at NYC’s publicly-run Rikers Island prison complex, and at least six state correctional officers have lost their lives to the virus.

NPR reported that social distancing is “impossible to achieve” at New York’s state-run Sing Sing prison, and the Legal Aid Society has sued NYC for lack of access to soap and proper hygiene at Rikers.

Yet Mr. Anderson ignores all of this. Instead, he pushes a political agenda aimed at attacking government contractors in corrections.

Again, he ought to learn the facts first. Our members work closely with local, state, and federal health officials – just as publicly-run prisons do – and follow the most updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for correctional facilities.

Unlike many overcrowded publicly-run jails, our member-operated facilities are contracted with government partners for a set capacity. Further, our medical staff are helping screen for risk factors at intake, conducting appropriate testing, and actively promoting good hygiene and social distancing, among other steps.

Our members have gone above and beyond to help in this crisis. For example, CoreCivic offered at no cost the use of available facilities to create critical care facilities for local COVID-19 patients.

Finally, our members have thousands of employees – doctors, nurses, counselors, chaplains, corrections officers, and others – who today are working on the front lines of this COVID-19 pandemic. Every day they’re risking their own lives to keep the men and women in their care safe and healthy. They’re heroes, and they deserve respect.

Mr. Anderson should spend more time learning the facts about what’s facing New York’s public corrections system in this COVID-19 pandemic, rather than launching politically-motivated attacks.

That’s the very least that New Yorkers deserve in this challenging time.

Alexandra Wilkes is national spokesperson for the Day 1 Alliance, a trade association representing private detention contractors.


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