The Intercept: Coronavirus Has Arrived At Rikers Island: Inside New York City Jails, Where The Pandemic Is Set To Explode

The restricted ability of people locked on Rikers to protect themselves is a problem because many of them, due to age or underlying health conditions, are at higher risk of getting very sick or dying from the disease. It’s also a problem because the officials tasked with making sure incarcerated people are safe have so far refused to release any comprehensive plan for handling an outbreak. Despite growing calls to release vulnerable people from the Petri dish of Rikers, officials have taken no steps to do so.

“We know that there literally is no way to ensure the health and well-being of people incarcerated on Rikers in this type of crisis,” said Justine Olderman, executive director of Bronx Defenders, a public defender organization. “It is an incubator for the spread of disease and viruses, and this virus is unlike anything that anyone has ever seen. You have a situation where all the protocols that are coming out of the Centers for Disease Control cannot be enacted: There are broken sinks, there’s no hand sanitizer, people don’t have access to soap, 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. In a situation like that, the only moral thing to do is release them.”

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