The head of the city’s correction officers’ union says jails should be shut down because of the the new coronavirus.
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Elias Husamudeen, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA), says he has spoken with the de Blasio administration about immediately halting visitors from entering city jails to prevent coronavirus cases from occurring in lockup.
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Husamudeen tells NY1 the department doesn’t know if people carrying the virus are visiting inmates.
“We get hundreds of visitors a day and we don’t know who they are,” said Husamudeen. “Why should we wait until we get a case to take action? This is serious. It’s irresponsible not to shut it down.”
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The union says so far it doesn’t know of any confirmed coronavirus case with correction officers, civilian employees, or inmates.
Husamudeen says currently there are about 5,400 inmates housed in city jails and that includes Rikers Island.
The president of the second largest law enforcement union in the city believes there would be pandemonium among inmates, officers, and staff if someone in Rikers or another city jail contracted COVID-19.
A Correction Department spokesman says it is screening visitors with questionnaires and health professionals are on-site. The spokesperson also said the state would have to approve the jails closed to visitors.
Husamudeen disagrees, saying the city has the power to shut down jails, and no one knows if people are being honest when filling out health questionnaires when seeking to visit family and friends who are locked up.
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