An Inmate At Rikers Island Prison Has Tested Positive For COVID-19

Published on March 18, 2020

An inmate at Rikers Island prison in New York has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Daily News. A corrections officer tested positive for the virus earlier today. The officer worked at the entrance of the prison, and the virus was likely brought in from a visitor. The inmate’s positive result highlights a very real fear of the virus infiltrating the U.S. prison system.

Rikers is currently home to around 10,000 prisoners on any given day. Including celebrity figures like Anna Delvey, the famed grifter and, more recently, Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein was transported from Rikers to a maximum security prison called Downstate Correctional Facility in Upstate New York earlier today. The prisoner was transported, allegedly, because the new facility has the infrastructure to handle Weinstein’s now-ongoing medical problems.

Famous inmates at Rikers Island make it a well-known prison around the country.

Weinstein was admitted to a New York City hospital earlier this month, citing chest pain as part of an ongoing heart and back problem that left him unable to walk without a walker. Weinstein currently faces extradition to Los Angeles over separate rape allegations, so it’s unclear how long he’ll be in the Upstate New York maximum security prison for.

A coronavirus outbreak in any prison poses a significant risk to potentially thousands of lives because of the adverse living conditions that prisoners are often subject to. In a busy prison like Rikers, where prisoners are in and out of the island on a daily basis, it could mean risking the lives of thousands of people imprisoned for nonviolent crimes.

The looming threat of coronavirus in U.S. prisons could be detrimental.

In Ohio, the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak led to the temporary release of hundreds of inmates at the Cuyahoga county jail that had been booked on nonviolent crimes. The ACLU praised the move, asking other jails and prisons around the country to follow suit. 

It was for this reason that President Donald Trump imposed new restrictions on border control that will see thousands of migrants turned around at the Mexican border to keep the virus out of the ongoing detention facilities throughout the United States. President Trump closed the U.S./Canada border as part of a mutual agreement with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier today in an attempt to keep the virus from spreading more.

As a result of the rapidly spreading virus, many are calling for the closure of the detention facilities throughout the United States now more than ever as well as a decrease in prisoners incarcerated for nonviolent crimes.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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