Activists Show Concern Over Broome Jail Inmates Amid COVID-19

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CORNING, NY (WSKG) – Despite calls from activists, Broome County has no plans to release inmates from its jail amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Broome County has no plans on releasing any inmates because of COVID-19,” Broome County Executive Jason Garnar said in an email.

According to other officials, the notion is not even on the table.

Broome County Sheriff David Harder. (Gabe Altieri/WSKG)

“There has been no discussion and no plan for some mass release of incarcerated individuals,” explained Major Mark Smolinsky, Broome County Jail Administrator.

Jails across New York suspended visitations from family, volunteers and vendors to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The Broome County Jail has over 300 inmates and 150 personnel in its facility everyday. Andrew Pragacz, co-founder of Justice and Unity in the Southern Tier, said it is a public health concern.

“We all need to be concerned about everybody else’s health,” Pragacz said. “And that includes people that are incarcerated.”

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

There were concerns that an outbreak inside the jail would carry throughout the community by those who enter and leave the jail daily.

Pragacz said county officials have not lived up to their obligation to the citizens of Broome County.

One option, according to Pragacz, is to release non-violent, low-level offenders to disused motels where they would have limited contact with others. But, he added there needs to be a government plan to safely re-home anybody from the jail.

Major Smolinsky explained corrections officers who work for the county jail are trained in infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis-C. He said concerns over COVID-19 within the county jail are not warranted.

As of Thursday, no inmates have been released by any upstate jail due to COVID-19.