Business Insider: A Rikers Island inmate contracted coronavirus. Experts say jails are at high risk for an outbreak.
Inmates there and around New York City have lodged complaints that the jails lack “basic sanitation measures,” according to the Legal Aid Society.
“There are broken sinks, there’s no hand sanitizer, people don’t have access to soap,” Justine Olderman, executive director of Bronx Defenders, told The Intercept. “And at a time we’re all being asked to do social distancing, you have an environment where people are sleeping 100 to a room.”
But it isn’t just sanitation that threatens incarcerated peoples’ health. More than one-in-three jailed people have underlying health problems, according to government data. And such issues amplify the threat of severe sickness or death from COVID-19.
“In a situation like that,” said Olderman, “the only moral thing to do is release them [inmates].”
Additionally, Rikers Island is built on a landfill that emits poisonous gases. Almost a third of state and federal prisons in the US are built within three miles of toxic waste plots known as Superfund sites. The locations are so contaminated that they are off-limits to the public.
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