As reported by NJ.com, the Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local Number 105 (“P.B.A. #105”), the union representing rank-and-file Correctional Police Officers employed by the New Jersey Department of Corrections, among various other State employees, and the largest law enforcement union in the State of New Jersey, is demanding widespread and free testing of both its members and inmates alike at all New Jersey prisons in the wake of yet another unfortunate death of a Correctional Police Officer due to COVID-19. Of critical importance, P.B.A. #105’s demand for testing is being made whether the members, workers, or inmates are symptomatic or not.
Currently, the New Jersey Department of Corrections reports that 460 workers in the State prison system have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Moreover, 24 State Prison inmates, in all, have died so far from COVID-19 and 9 at residential community release programs have tested positive. To put this into perspective, these totals amount to approximately one out of every ten officers have tested positive for the virus. This is ten times greater than the positive results that have been reported within the State of New Jersey. Currently, state employees who are not symptomatic are paying $52.00 each for COVID-19 testing according to William Sullivan, President of P.B.A. #105.
“We’re giving it to each other,” President Sullivan said of the virus. “Officers walk along 3 or 4-foot wide corridors up and down a tier with 90 inmates in cells with open bars breathing on them and each other.” In other words, social distancing measures are impossible to maintain within a correctional facility, thereby contributing to the potential exposure and spread of COVID-19 within such facilities.
The untimely and unfortunate passing of another officer is another sad reminder of the dangers New Jersey Public Safety Officers are facing on a daily basis as a result of this deadly pandemic. As such, P.B.A. #105’s demand for widespread and free testing for officers, workers, and inmates alike, symptomatic or not, is yet another measure that must be undertaken to safeguard the lives of officers, their families, loved ones, and the public at large. It is a common sense approach that should be utilized not only on the State level, but on the County level as well. In conjunction with providing officers with proper personal protection equipment and non-congregate housing, all avenues to limit COVID-19 exposure must be utilized for those on the frontlines.
Please continue to check this blog periodically to ascertain important updates regarding all issues affecting New Jersey Public Safety Officers. We continue to thank you for your dedicated and noble service during these unprecedented times. Stay safe.