With less than one percent of prisoners in New Jersey Department of Corrections facilities getting screened for COVID-19, New Jersey Together is calling for on site testing as the state tries to figure out a potential release plan for low-level offenders.
“The current situation in the Department of Corrections and the lack of testing being provided by the Department of Health are absolutely unconscionable. By failing to act, the state is putting people in prison, staff, and whole communities at risk. At least 19 people are already dead,” said Rev. Dr. Alonzo Perry, Sr., an NJT member and the senior pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Jersey City
“As the governor likes to remind us, statistics about infections and deaths are not just numbers. They are describing human beings. People with families and loved ones — whether in nursing homes, homeless shelters, or prisons. Governor Murphy knows this is a problem. It’s time for him to take action for the good of these families and for the state as a whole.”
As of this evening, the NJ Department of Corrections had only received the results of 121 coronavirus tests and 105 of those tested were positive – a rate of nearly 87 percent – according to figures provided by the state.
Shanta Scott, who has a loved one incarcerated at Newark’s Northern State Prison.
This location is where 24 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 and five have died: the highest number of infections of any NJDOC facility. She voiced her concerns in a YouTube clip made by NJ Together.
“I am disgusted and horrified by what is happening. My loved one and almost everyone else on his wing had symptoms of COVID-19. Many had a fever, a cough, and were tired,” she said in the video.
“And when people asked to be tested, they were definitively told no, unless you can’t breathe. This shows the utter lack of value being placed on human life for those who are in prison in New Jersey.”
Additionally, the NJ DOC has said that at least 445 staffers have tested positive for the coronavirus throughout New Jersey.
A month ago, through their local affiliate, Jersey City Together, the religious non-profit group called on the state to make COVID-19 testing a priority at correctional facilities a month ago.
Furthermore, they have called on both state and county facilities to take after Essex County and test everyone regardless of their symptoms.
On April 10th, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said prisoners at state facilities that are older and/or have pre-exisiting conditions would be place on house arrest, but while about 1,100 inmates have been identified, none have been released yet.