Activists Call For More Transparency During State Hearing On COVID-19 In Jails

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BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — The New York Senate held a hearing on the toll of COVID-19 in the state’s jails this week.  

Andrew Pragacz (back-right) at a protest during a Broome Legislature meeting in 2019. (Gabe Altieri/WSKG)

Among the groups testifying during the hearing were members of Justice and Unity in the Southern Tier. 

Cofounder Andy Pragacz said court closures and delayed openings have extended the imprisonment of inmates with health conditions at the Broome County jail

“Throughout the pandemic we have seen many people, despite reforms to bail and discovery laws, held on minor drug charges, DUI charges, petty larceny and the like… others for technical parole violations,” Pragacz said. “A disturbing number were locked up due to slowdowns and failures in the assigned counsel and the public defender system.”

Pragacz also asked for more transparency about the number of COVID-19 cases at the jail, as well as testing, quarantines and hospitalizations.

Broome County Sheriff David Harder did not immediately respond to WSKG’s request for comment. 

Senator Luis Sepulveda, who chairs the Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee, also mentioned recent COVID cases among inmates at Chemung County jail. The cluster is connected to a church in Horseheads where one corrections officer attended services.