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New York Department of Corrections Investigator Dies From COVID-19

The individual had no contact with people in custody for at least the past month, according to the DOC.

(Illustration by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The New York Department of Corrections has confirmed that an employee died of the new coronavirus on Sunday.

In a statement on Monday, Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann said that the individual, who worked as an investigator with the department, had no contact with people in custody for at least the past month. The statement did not say which facility the investigator worked in.

“We are heartbroken and send our deepest condolences to our colleague’s family, loved ones, and co-workers,” Brann said in the statement. “As we endure this loss to our community, we will continue to do everything to keep our facilities safe for everyone.”

Brann added that “anyone who was in close contact with this individual has been notified and appropriate precautions taken.”

In a statement, Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society, outlined the organization’s demands in light of the death. Among other changes, they’re calling for the DOC to supply incarcerated people with soap and hand sanitizer and provide plans for how it’ll treat people who are showing symptoms of the virus. 

“We expressed concerns about DOC’s preparedness for this pandemic because we all know that cases of COVID-19 in City jails are an inevitability,” she said. “In light of this confirmed case, we implore the City to act immediately to protect all people in the facilities—both people in custody and staff.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in the United States, criminal justice reform advocates have sounded the alarm about the potentially detrimental effects an outbreak could have in a prison. Amanda Klonsky, the chief program officer for a prison education organization, wrote in the New York Times Monday that the 2.3 million people detained by the country’s legal system are especially vulnerable to the virus.

“Jails experience a daily influx of correctional staff, vendors, health care workers, educators and visitors—all of whom carry viral conditions at the prison back to their homes and communities and return the next day packing the germs from back home,” she wrote. 

This story has been updated.