State allows more protection for corrections officers after concerns about safety

Posted at 6:55 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 19:14:47-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — For those who serve in the justice system it's business as usual. Corrections officers report to work daily and their safety is a major concern.

“They’re not just New York State Employees. They deserve to be protected as much as a nurse, doctor or anyone else. They have families and they need to be protected, the inmates need to be protected,” said the family member of a local corrections officer.

This woman asked to remain anonymous, fearing her loved one could lose their job. She says corrections officers at the Orleans Correctional Facility are not given any masks.

On Wednesday morning, the DOCCS allowed these workers to bring their own masks in, per Representative Elise Stefanik (NY-21). She says this change comes after working with the state to expand protective equipment.

Email after email, 7 Eyewitness News has read concerns about correctional facilities, including Wedne Correctional Facility where at least two inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. They want the state to provide protective equipment before it's too late.

NYSCOPBA is the union representing these 30,000 workers and was calling on the state for supplies as well.

"This is a big win for us," said Tammy Sawchuk, Executive Vice President of NYSCOPBA. The union was prepared to purchase their own supplies for these workers and is still looking advocating for their protection.

The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision sent this updated statement to 7 Eyewitness News Wednesday.

Use of these personal protective devices in the correctional setting beyond what the Department has already provided, to the extent staff already possesses these items and will not be reducing their availability to frontline healthcare workers, the Department will not oppose their use if there is a chance that they may slow or even stop the spread of this virus from entering our facilities.
In addition, incarcerated individuals who are subject to quarantine will be issued a surgical-type mask to further reduce the risk of any secondary transmission of COVID-19.

They've also put in place the following measures to ensure safety of inmates and staff:

  • Suspending all intake of inmates
  • Suspending internal transfers of inmates except for medical reasons
  • Temporarily suspending visitations
  • Requiring non-security and other civilian staff to remain home for two weeks
  • Deployed hand sanitizer dispensers to all facilities