Coronavirus continues to spread in NYC jails despite dwindling inmate population


Nearly 1,000 people have been released from city jails in under three weeks to curb the spread of coronavirus — but the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in local facilities on Thursday continued to climb.

The jail population dropped from 5,557 on March 16 to 4,563 on April 2 — a total of 994 people, city data shows.

But by Thursday morning, the number of people in custody who tested positive for COVID-19 jumped from 184 to 231, officials said. The number of Department of Correction staffers with coronavirus also increased from 169 to 223.

About 300 incarcerated people are under medical observation for coronavirus and over 1,900 others asymptomatic individuals who were possibly exposed are under quarantine, according to a Board of Correction report published late Wednesday night.

The report also says 87 jail housing areas are under quarantine and another 16 are under observation. Correctional Health Services has yet to release the number of people it has tested for coronavirus or how many with COVID-19 have been hospitalized.

“At the Board’s request, the DOC and CHS have begun providing key data related to the prevalence and public health response to the novel coronavirus inside the city jails,” Interim Chair Jacqueline Sherman and Incoming Chair Jennifer Jones Austin said in a joint statement.

“In providing this data to the public, the Board aims to bring greater transparency to the City’s efforts to protect the health of everyone in the jails — those who are detained and those who work there — as well as their families,” the statement continued.

Mayor de Blasio, the Department of Correction, the NYPD, the district attorneys and other agencies have signed off on the early release of about 370 low-level offenders serving city sentences of one year or less.

Those individuals must report to one of several supervision release providers — including the Center for Court Innovation, the New York City Criminal Justice Agency and Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services — and must continue to check in with those providers until their original release date.

The state has approved the release of about 200 people accused of technical parole violations who are housed in city jails. The release of another 130 state parolees will come as soon as the city can find beds for them, sources told the Daily News.

The number of pretrial detainees decreased by about 150 people between March 18 and March 30, according to a report released on Monday from the Center for Court Innovation. Fifty-five of those individuals — who the courts must authorize for release and determine the conditions for supervision— had a violent or Class A felony.