New Jersey Prisons Called ‘Ripe For an Outbreak’

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A recent inmate at New Jersey’s only women’s prison has tested positive for coronavirus and everyone who was in contact with her is being quarantined, state Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks told her staff Friday, reports The corrections department isn’t counting her in its public statistics because she was released to a county jail before she was tested. Inmates and officers have been raising the alarm about a lack of personal protective equipment, lax social distancing and the shuttling of inmates between facilities on opposite ends of New Jersey. About 179 inmates are in quarantine.

Inmates and officers across the state prison system described conditions ripe for an outbreak, with a shortage of sanitizing products and lax policies at some prisons that still allowed inmates to play basketball and forced them to eat in close quarters. State corrections unions and civil liberties advocates have asked for Gov. Phil Murphy to take executive action to stem the spread of the coronavirus behind bars. More than 100 officers have been quarantined, said Mike Gallagher of PBA Local 105, the state’s largest corrections union. An officer at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility was sneezed upon by an inmate who told him, “Haha, now you have corona, too.” The alleged attack was similar to those reported by police officers during arrests around New Jersey in recent weeks. “We don’t think that the state cares about the health and safety of our correctional police officers — their lack of action is showing that,” Gallagher said. “When it hits the department of corrections full force, it’s going to have a devastating effect for the inmates and the officers,” he said.

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