FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2021
CONTACT: Press Office
EAST ELMHURST, NY – As New York City takes measures to combat an increasing wave of COVID-19 cases, DOC is announcing immediate, temporary measures to prevent the spread of COVID in the City’s jails, including the suspension of in-person visits, and congregate programs and services, including religious services.
The suspension of in-person visitation and programs and service suspensions will be reviewed on an ongoing basis, based on the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is more contagious than many earlier variants.
“It is extremely difficult for all of us to take these measures,” said DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi. “The city has done an extraordinary job of keeping COVID at bay in our facilities and minimizing loss of life due to the pandemic, but Omicron represents a new challenge. We are taking these precautions once again because we know that they work and that they will make everyone safer. Thank goodness the Mayor required all staff and vendors to be vaccinated, as that adds considerable protection for them. And thank goodness he has added an additional $100 bonus for booster shots, which will be available to help protect incarcerated people.”
Beginning December 22, DOC will offer tele-visits in place of in-person visits and begin suspending and/or modifying services immediately. DOC will offer tele-visits five days per week on the regular visit schedule. Family and loved ones can sign up for a tele-visit at: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doc/inmate-info/video-visit-request-form.page.
DOC staff will communicate with visitors who have existing In-Person Visit appointments and work to replace those visits with tele-visits.
While programming and services are suspended or modified, DOC staff will continue to offer certain programs in the housing areas and will work with program providers to gather and distribute self-guided materials and activities via tablets or printed packets. Additionally, religious materials are available on tablets and DOC dedicated chaplains will use their discretion to visit housing areas to offer in-person faith-based services.
People in custody will continue to have access to the clinic for their healthcare needs, as well as hotlines for health and mental health care, chaplaincy, and other services.
In addition to our existing COVID-19 prevention strategy, which has proven effective and was developed in conjunction with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, DOC is also designating at least one unit per facility for people confirmed to have COVID-19, in order to limit transmission.
CHS continues to offer the vaccine (including boosters) to people in custody; approximately 44% of people currently in custody have received at least one dose of the vaccine. CHS counsels and educates patients about the vaccine through direct provider-patient communication, as well as through written materials, produced and distributed in conjunction with the Department.
Currently 85% of DOC uniformed personnel have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 87% percent department-wide.
CHS also continues to test and quarantine all new admissions and separately house patients exposed to COVID-positive individuals; they also isolate confirm-confirmed patients, which includes the use of the communicable disease unit (CDU).
Current testing positivity rates and active cases of people in custody will continue to be available through the CHS COVID-19 Data Snapshot.
Both DOC and CHS continue to encourage people in custody to get vaccinated, an effort which has included messaging in weekly newsletters, posters, flyers, $100 incentives and $100 gift cards, as well as tablet video messages from Dr. Anthony Fauci, Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman, and Mets legend Mookie Wilson.
About the Department of Correction
The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) is dedicated to creating a safe and supportive environment while providing individuals in our care with a path to successfully re-enter their communities.