A group of prisoners filed a class-action lawsuit Friday against Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision for failing to provide proper protection to prisoners who were at high risk for complications from the coronavirus.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the Legal Aid Society and Relman Colfax PLLC in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleges that elderly and medically vulnerable prisoners were treated with “deliberate indifference” when the prison failed to take basic safety precautions to protect them from coronavirus, Lohud reported.
Over the summer, New York began transferring nearly 100 prisoners who were elderly or had pre-existing conditions from various prisons to Adirondack Correctional Facility. The complaint alleges that the state effectively created a “prison nursing home” and failed to take basic safety precautions such as social distancing to keep the prisoners safe. (RELATED: ‘Most Vulnerable Communities’: Representative Pressley Demands Inmates Be Prioritized For Coronavirus Vaccine)
It’s official: @LegalAidNYC & @relmanlaw are suing @NYGovCuomo & DOCCS for deadly prison conditions at Cuomo’s new prison nursing home at Adirondack Correctional Facility. We’ve joined the lawsuit as an organizational plaintiff & demand immediate action. https://t.co/7JZ6bornph
— Release Aging People in Prison Campaign (@RAPPcampaign) January 8, 2021
Prisoners were not tested for the virus before being loaded on busses for transport to the Adirondack Correctional Facility, according to the lawsuit. They were also allegedly forced to eat closely gathered near other inmates from all sections of the prison. Staff often didn’t wear masks or wore them incorrectly, and prisoners were given paper masks that were sometimes washed and re-used, the complaint alleges.
“Adirondack residents are at the mercy of their jailers in every respect,” the lawsuit says according to the report. “Their jailers have behaved with shocking indifference toward their needs, placing them in the crosshairs of a virus to which they are highly vulnerable.”
Cuomo failed to show the same level of care for protecting the inmates as he did for the general public, the lawsuit alleges.
Documents show that the Adirondack prison has had two positive coronavirus cases and no deaths, according to Lohud. Advocates argue that the number is inaccurate due to a lack of testing protocols at the prison, Lohud reported.
Records from the state Department of Correction and Community Supervision show that the number of prisoners who tested positive for coronavirus rose from around 1,800 to 3,100 in December, according to the report.
Cuomo ordered the release of some prisoners from Rikers Island in March after there was an outbreak of coronavirus at the facility. The governor’s administration said in November that around 3,150 inmates had been released from prison, but the lawsuit claims that Cuomo continued transporting people to the Adirondack facility instead of releasing more inmates, Lohud reported.