De Blasio orders pause on visits to New York City jails over coronavirus

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans Sunday to halt all visits to inmates in New York City jails  — just hours after the Department of Corrections reported its first COVID-19 positive staffer.

All in-person visits will be suspended starting Wednesday in an attempt to reduce exposure to the virus inside city jails, the mayor said.

The corrections officers’ union lauded the move from city hall Sunday evening that came as part of a package of unprecedented measures in the city to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“We are obviously pleased that the City has finally heeded our call to temporarily suspend inmate visits at our jail facilities,” said Elias Husamudeen, the president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association.

On Sunday afternoon, the DOC confirmed it had one civilian staffer who tested positive for the pandemic virus and another in a 14-day quarantine.

The union called for city hall to stop jails visits on Friday to prevent the spread of the virus in what it described as a vulnerable environment.

“In times of crisis, it’s critical for our elected leaders to listen to the boots on the ground and in this case, New York City Correction Officers are the boots on the ground. We know how to keep our jails safe and secure.”

De Blasio said in a release Sunday evening the city would try to make up for the lack of visits by increasing the availability of phones and stamps for inmates to communicate with their families while in city jails during the pause.

The city is also trying to roll out its new “televisit initiative,” allowing people in jail to video conference with people on the outside.

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Correction reffered to the mayor’s statement.

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