A prisoner at Rikers Island correctional facility has reportedly tested positive for coronavirus.
The inmate is said to be the first in New York city custody to have contracted the disease, The Daily News reports.
Union officials announced Wednesday that an unidentified New York City correction officer who works at Rikers Island has also been struck down with the virus.
This makes them the second Department of Correction employee to test positive for the virus, after an investigator died from the disease on Monday.
It comes as notorious inmates across US prisons are seeking ‘get out of jail free’ cards, citing concerns that the virus could spread among the prison system.
Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff and infamous cocaine kingpin Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela have both made cases to be released.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that officials are ‘evaluating right now people who might be particularly high-risk in terms of vulnerability to the virus’.
A prisoner at Rikers Island correctional facility has reportedly tested positive for coronavirus
News of the confirmed case in Rikers Island comes after Weinstein was returned to the facility after spending five days in hospital for ‘dangerously high blood pressure’.
His spokesperson Juda Engelmayer told DailyMail.com Wednesday morning that the disgraced producer, 67, is ‘fine’ and said he had not come into contact with the infected individual.
‘Harvey is fine and has not been in contact with the officer. He also is expected to be taken to a state facility within a few days,’ said Engelmayer.
Weinstein has since left the notorious prison and is being transferred to the Downstate Correctional facility in Fishkill, New York, DailyMail.com can reveal.
The site, which houses 1,800 inmates, is about 60 miles north of New York City and is the processing center for new inmates.
Weinstein could remain there or could be taken to another facility -the Mohawk Correctional Facility in Rome.
He spent the last two days at Rikers before being taken to Fishkill, which houses 1,800 inmates.
Weinstein was sentenced last Wednesday to 23 years behind bars for rape and a criminal sex act in the landmark case.
He had been transported to Rikers Island after sentencing but was rushed to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan hours later after he complained of chest pains.
Harvey Weinstein is seen leaving a Manhattan courthouse Wednesday afternoon after being sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault. News of the confirmed case in Rikers Island comes just hours after he was returned to the facility after spending five days in hospital for ‘dangerously high blood pressure’
His spokesperson confirmed the convicted rapist is ‘fine’ and had not been in contact with the officer
He was later released from hospital and transferred back to Rikers Island.
The rapist is in poor health, having also spent multiple days in the hospital after his conviction last month with different ailments.
Concerns have been mounting for prison officers and inmates across the US amid the coronavirus pandemic, as high prison populations, confined spaces and poor hygiene could make facilities hotbeds for the disease.
New York’s Department of Correction confirmed that an employee in the Investigation Division died on Monday from the killer virus.
David Perez, 56, had a pre-existing health condition and only had limited contact with inmates, officials said.
In the latest case in the Rikers Island correction officer, it is not yet known who or how many inmates and staff they may have come into contact with.
David Perez, 56, (above) died on Monday from coronavirus. He worked for New York’s Department of Corrections
However, New York City’s jail system is home to around 8,000 inmates, with the majority at Rikers Island so the implications could be significant.
Dozens of inmates at Rikers Island are now pleading to be released amid fears that the facility could fast become a breeding ground for the disease.
In New York, public defenders have asked judges to release older and at-risk inmates from the city’s jails, saying pretrial confinement ‘creates the ideal environment for the transmission of contagious disease.’
‘I truly believe the jails are ticking time bombs,’ said David Patton, executive director of the Federal Defenders of New York.
‘They’re overcrowded and unsanitary in the best of times. They don’t provide appropriate medical care in the best of times, and these certainly are not the best of times.’
The global outbreak has become something of a ‘get out of jail’ card for hundreds of low-level inmates across the US, and hard-timers too are seeking their freedom citing concerns that it’s not a matter of if but when the deadly illness sweeps through the prison system.
Among those pleading for compassionate release or home detention are the former head of the Cali drug cartel, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen and Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff.
The 81-year-old Bernard Madoff (above) is serving a 150-year sentence for bilking thousands of investors in a $17.5 billion Ponzi scheme. He has also requested release due to the virus
‘He is in poor health. He is 81 years old,’ David Oscar Markus, the attorney for cocaine kingpin Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela, wrote in emergency court papers this week seeking his release after serving about half of a 30-year drug-trafficking sentence.
‘When (not if) COVID-19 hits his prison, he will not have much of a chance.’
The 81-year-old Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence for bilking thousands of investors in a $17.5 billion Ponzi scheme, had asked last month to be released early in light of his terminal kidney disease.
His attorney is now calling on all at-risk federal prisoners to be released for their own safety.
‘The federal prison system has consistently shown an inability to respond to major crises,’ Madoff attorney Brandon Sample told The Associated Press.
‘My concerns are even more amplified for prisoners at federal medical centers and those who are aged.’
Prosecutors have argued against Rodriguez-Orejuela’s emergency request and noted that the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, where both he and Madoff are serving time has not had any staff or inmates diagnosed with the virus, and staff are being screened upon entry.
America’s nearly 7,000 jails, prisons and correction facilities are an ideal breeding ground for the virus, as dangerous as nursing homes and cruise ships but far less sanitary.
Fears are mounting that stepped-up cleanings and a temporary halt to visitations at many lockups across the country will not make up for the fact that ventilation behind bars is often poor, inmates sleep in close quarters and share a small number of bathrooms.
Prisons across several US states have started ramping up measures to protect inmates, releasing hundreds to decrease prison populations in an effort to combat the potential spread.
A Rikers Island cell: Concerns have been mounting for prison officers and inmates across the US amid the coronavirus pandemic, as high prison populations and confined spaces could make facilities hotbeds for the disease
New York City’s jail system is home to around 8,000 inmates, with the majority at Rikers Island (above)
New York City’s Board of Correction has made calls for all high-risk inmates to be released immediately from the city’s prisons, but officials are yet to approve the move.
‘The City must begin this process now,’ it said in a statement Tuesday.
‘The City’s jails have particular challenges to preventing disease transmissions on a normal day and even more so during a public health crisis.’
The NYC Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association also warned that correction officers’ lives are being put at risk by the ‘reckless’ rules.
‘It’s very sad that we have to remind the Board of Correction that their mandate, per the city’s Charter, is to advocate for the welfare of everyone in the Correction Department, not just the inmates. Their latest asinine proposal to start letting inmates out of jail who are ‘high risk’ to this virus, regardless of their risk to public safety, is beyond irresponsible,’ the statement from President Elias Husamudeensaid Tuesday.
‘Instead of recklessly letting inmates out, call for the city to ramp up its efforts to bring in more masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, and other vital supplies for the men and women who must also put their health at risk by showing up to work every day, providing care, custody, and control. Correction Officers’ lives matter too.’
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that the city is considering such a move to release inmates.
City officials are ‘evaluating right now people who might be particularly high-risk in terms of vulnerability to the virus… and determine if, case by case, any of those individuals should be taken out of our jail system,’ de Blasio said.
This would mean the release of inmates with pre-existing health conditions who are deemed low risk to the rest of the population.
De Blasio also announced that if people have ‘flu-like symptoms’ when being arrested, they ‘will not be taken to a precinct or to central booking’ but there will ‘specific methodology’ used for their booking.
This will include the use of video conference systems to limit contact between those people and first responders.
In Brooklyn, ‘low-level crimes’ will also not be prosecuted, to limit potential exposure to the virus for employees and visitors.
‘During this public health emergency, it is imperative that we also protect those who might be exposed to the coronavirus during the procedures of arrest, processing and detention in Central Booking,’ District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said Tuesday in a statement posted to Twitter, adding that they will ‘immediately decline to prosecute low-level offenses that don’t jeopardize public safety’.
Inmates crowd a dorm room inside the Men’s Central Jail in 2014. There are currently 21 inmates in quarantine here as the county tries to reduce the risk of the coronavirus
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva revealed he had called on officers to reduce the number of arrests and that they had dropped from 300 a day to 60 since February
In Los Angeles County, the prison population has decreased by 600 people already to combat the potential spread of the coronavirus among inmates.
Early release is being granted to those with less than 30 days on their sentence, reducing inmates from 17,076 to 16,459 since the end of February.
The LA County sheriff is also asking officers to cite and release offenders when possible, which has reduced the daily number of arrests from 300 to 60.
The moves in LA County, where there are 94 coronavirus cases and one death, have seen daily arrests drop from 300 to 60, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Monday at a news conference.
He added that the aggregate bond amount for people to be booked also went up from $25,000 to $50,000.
‘Our population within the jail is a vulnerable population just by virtue of who they are and where they’re located,’ he said.
‘So, we’re protecting that population from potential exposure.’
There are already nine inmates in the county in isolation at a correctional treatment center, 21 inmates in quarantine at the Men’s Central Jail and five in quarantine at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility.
Staff in these locations are said to be taking the temperature of anyone entering, looking for fevers.
Prison staff are also at risk and several have already been placed in self-isolation.
‘Over the weekend, we’ve had several of our personnel come into contact, and they have been self-isolated,’ Villanueva said.
‘However, fortunately, no one has actually tested positive for the virus.’
The Los Angeles River flows behind the Twin Towers Jail in Los Angeles County. Five inmates are in quarantine in the correctional facility as a result of the coronavirus
All 122 federal prisons and many of the 1,700-plus state prisons across the US have banned visitors and volunteers to try to prevent an outbreak in the facilities.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons announced its ban Friday, joining most state and county prisons.
Lawyer visits have also been banned for 30 days.
In response, many federal prisons are increasing the number of prisoner phone calls or the total number of minutes allotted.
Prisons in Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio and South Dakota are looking to expand video calling abilities for inmates.
In Cleveland, Ohio, Cuyahoga County’s common pleas court held extra hearings on Saturday to try and clear the prison population, releasing 200 people since Friday.
Those released were said to be low-level, non-violent inmates who have been placed on probation or released by having their bond reduced to a manageable level.
‘We are trying to make as much room as possible, so when this virus hits our jail, the jail can deal with these people, quarantine them and deal with it instead of letting them sit there and infect the whole entire jail,’ said Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan.
‘You gotta remember, the goal of this is to protect the community and the safety of the inmates. If someone’s a serious violent person, well, we’re using our discretion to make sure the community’s safe also,’ he added.
The Cook County Jail in Illinois is in talks to begin the compassionate release of inmates with exceptional health care needs who don’t pose a threat amid the coronavirus crisis
And in Cook County in Illinois, talks are underway to begin the compassionate release of inmates with exceptional health care needs who don’t pose a threat or a flight risk.
Sheriff Tom Dart said the first of those early exits was secured on Monday.
‘The office has already secured the release of several detainees deemed to be highly vulnerable to COVID-19, including a pregnant detainee and another detainee who was hospitalized for treatment not related to the virus,’ the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
‘Additionally, staff are reaching out to other jurisdictions regarding detainees who are in custody due to outstanding warrants on low-level offenses. Sheriff’s staff are asking those jurisdictions to either quash those warrants or geographically limit them so that those detainees can be released from Cook County Jail.’
New arrivals in Cook County Jail, which has a population of 5,600, will now be kept in a receiving area to be monitored for symptoms before being placed with the general population and in Illinois state prisons, the 40,000 inmates plus staff will have increased access to hand santitizer and soap.
In Massachusetts, Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger’s office revealed that 30 men who had been in community sober homes are now at the jail’s pre-release center so that they could be monitored for illness.
Sheriff Coppinger said that it was so treatment could be provided on site if the men became ill.
And in Houston, Texas, the Harris County Juvenile Court announced that the court wing will be fully closed to all until further notice.
A person who had been at the court tested positive for the coronavirus, as did an employee at a correctional facility in Pennsylvania, where 34 inmates and staffers are now in quarantine.
The preventative actions come after evidence from previous outbreaks, such as an outbreak of mumps in Texas and New Jersey jails in 2019, highlighted the risk to the country’s prison population.
Prisoners have limited access to basic hygiene measures and high rates of existing health issues. Those being held in handcuffs also can’t cough into their elbow as advised and alcohol-based sanitizer is considered contraband in many US prisons.
U.S. prisoners have a higher than average rate of HIV and are more likely to be smokers than the general population.
And they are an aging population.
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said Tuesday that low-level offenses that don’t jeopardize public safety will not be prosecuted amid the outbreak to reduce potential exposure
From 1990 to 2012, the US prison population aged 55 and older increased by 550%.
Inmates have no way to social distance or self-isolate if there was an outbreak in a prison.
‘You can’t keep a 2- to 3-foot distance from inmates, and they can’t keep that distance themselves,’ Ray Coleman Jr., a teacher at the federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida, told CNN.
Some experts have advised that the only way to fight against a prison coronavirus outbreak is to reduce the number of imprisoned people.
This method was used in Iran, the country with the third worst outbreak, with 70,000 prisoners temporarily released after China reported three provinces with more than 500 cases in prisons during the height of their outbreak.
‘In the best of scenarios, we would only hope to delay this,’ Josiah Rich, a Brown University epidemiologist and director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, told The Guardian.
‘And because we have so many ill people behind bars, it’s going to get there, it’s going to spread like wildfire.’
The United States accounts for 22 percent of the world’s prison population with around 2.3 million people incarcerated.