Nassau County – The Nassau County Jail Advocates are calling on County Executive Laura Curran, Interim Sheriff Dzurenda and the Public Safety Committee of the Nassau County legislature to provide a transparent COVID-19 safety plan for inmates and staff in the Nassau County Correctional Facility.
The first case of COVID-19 was detected inside the facility on Sunday, March 15. Since then, there has been no public communication regarding education, criteria for testing, quarantine procedures, temperature checks, or access to mental health support for those housed in the jail.
Advocates have reached out to jail administration without response. Advocates are calling on CE Curran and incoming Sheriff Dzurenda to provide leadership and a plan of action for those at risk inside the jail. They’re also calling for a plan to reduce the spread of the virus in the jail and for plans to reduce the number of people incarcerated in Nassau County jail who are especially vulnerable.
“Without a public statement from County Leadership outlining comprehensive safety and population reduction plans, we are left to wonder if this is a concern for the county,” stated Susan Gottehrer, Nassau director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We know that anxiety inside the jail creates a dangerous environment and we also know that information helps alleviate anxiety. It is time for a transparent and public statement concerning the County’s next steps.”
Pat Dellatto, a nurse practioner and founder of Second Chance Reentry stated, “The prisons and jails should be obligated to follow the recommendations from the CDC in order to protect the staff, the incarcerated, and the community at large.”
Barbara Allan, of Prison Families Anonymous stated, “Those incarcerated in the jail are people who are loved and cherished by their familie. We must allow those who are vulnerable and not a threat to public safety, to return to their loved ones.”
Jayette Lansbury, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chair, stated, “People with mental illness are more susceptible to the virus, and the lack of outside contact combined with the fear can lead to self-harm and suicide. Free stamps, phone calls, writing materials, increased mental health assistance, and video visitation must be provided to help decrease anxiety particularly for those with mental illness.”
Serena Liguori, executive director of New Hour for Women and Children- LI, stated, “Mothers in the jail and pregnant women are particularly at high-risk for contracting COVID-19, and we are alarmed that there has been no drastic interventions planned to ensure that this vulnerable population is protected. We call for the immediate release of women who are not a safety risk.”
Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of Gender Equality New York, stated, “We are concerned that homophobia and transphobia will impact safety, treatment and care of this community, and urge County leadership to ensure that LBGTQ+ people in jails are adequately served during this outbreak.”
“Our faith traditions teach us to have compassion for the most vulnerable among us, especially in times of crisis,” stated Claire Deroche from the Social Justice Committee, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock. “We call on our elected leaders to take action on behalf of our incarcerated sisters and brothers, and those who work within the jail, with a plan that respects their dignity as members of the human family.”
The group joins national advocates and media outlets to call for efforts to reduce the population in the jail. They are specifically calling for consideration of the release of vulnerable populations, including people over 50 years old, those with technical parole violations and anyone serving less than one-year sentences. They are also calling for consideration of release and re-entry plans and considering alternative to incarceration programming.