TRENTON, NJ – One of Governor Phil Murphy’s first chess moves against the coronavirus in New Jersey was to announce the clearing out of New Jersey’s jails and prisons to reduce the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks within the system
That didn’t exactly work and horror stories are coming from within the NJ DOC over alleged mishandling of the pandemic within New Jersey’s prison and jail system.
New Jersey Senator Michael Testa wants to know why and wants to fix it.
Here’s what he said:
Senator Michael Testa (LD-1) renewed his call for the New Jersey Department of Corrections to implement extensive COVID-19 management plans. The Senator is seeking an immediate investigation of the NJDOC’s overall handling of virus infections within the system.
The Department of Corrections has failed to protect its inmates, correction officers and the communities where the officers live with their families,” said Senator Testa. “It is indefensible. Due to close confines and the extremely viral nature of COVID-19, the health of all who work or are incarcerated in NJDOC’s facilities must be the highest priority. This is a potentially fatal illness that must be contained effectively.”
On March 31, Senator Testa demanded that the NJDOC do a better job protecting corrections officers and their families amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He has called on the department to enact a variety of measures to help slow the spread in state prisons.
“My urging for a comprehensive coronavirus plan has been ignored,” Senator Testa said. “It is time to investigate the department’s laissez faire approach now, before we have a full-blown crisis in our prisons.”
According to reports, at least 14 State prisoners have died from coronavirus.
Senator Testa noted that New Jersey’s COVID-19 dashboard now includes a section on Long Term Care facilities and calls for the prison system data to be included in the dashboard.
Recently, allegations surfaced that a South Jersey Corrections officer was denied a test for coronavirus.
“As the world continues to learn how to deal with this pandemic, our Freeholder Board is increasingly concerned with the health and safety of our corrections officers. We consider them to be first responders who are entitled to be tested at our drive-through testing facility located at Rowan College of South Jersey – Cumberland Campus in Vineland,” stated Cumberland Freeholder Director Joseph Derella.
To receive testing, individuals must be symptomatic and request an appointment to be screened by completing the form at CompleteCareNJ.org or calling (856) 451-4700.
Senator Testa is sponsoring legislation, S-2359, which would require the New Jersey Department of Health to conduct coronavirus disease 2019 testing for first responders, including Correction Officers.
“Our nurses and doctors, first responders, and law enforcement should never be denied testing, especially when they believe they are symptomatic,” Testa added. “They are on the front lines each and every day. They 100 percent deserve our protection from coronavirus.”