Bronx Defenders Statement on Reports of Positive COVID-19 Tests on Rikers Island

For Immediate Release: March 18, 2020

NEW YORK – Justine Olderman, Executive Director at The Bronx Defenders, issued the following statement in response to reports that an incarcerated person and corrections officer at Rikers Island tested positive for COVID-19:

“This inevitable development only underscores what we have been saying all along: the people in our jails are particularly vulnerable in the event of a public health crisis like the ongoing spread of COVID-19. We should be marshalling all of our resources to secure the immediate release of people incarcerated pre-trial and serving sentences in our city’s jails.

 We are deeply concerned for the health and safety of our clients as the threat of a wide-scale outbreak of COVID-19 at Rikers Island continues to grow. The only solution is to act quickly to release those who are in on bail, serving city sentences, and are being held on technical parole violations.  We should start with those who are at risk of serious health complications if they contract the Coronavirus. This includes older adults, pregnant women, people with respiratory conditions, people who are immunocompromised, and people with other chronic health conditions. 

As our mayor and governor have stated, these are extraordinary times which require bold and extraordinary measures.  This is the time for the mayor to take action to empty out our city’s jails. It is only with an immediate decarceration of our city’s jails that we will guarantee that this public health crisis will not become a humanitarian crisis for those with the least ability to protect themselves.”