Stuart Alterman, attorney for PBA Local 231, last week disclosed that nearly 40 inmates and 11 correctional police officers have tested positive for Covid-19, more than quadrupling numbers from a week prior. According to unnamed sources within the Cumberland County Jail, approximately 39 inmates, 11 officers, and one civilian have tested positive for coronavirus.
“The numbers have skyrocketed in the past week,” said Stuart Alterman, counsel for PBA Local #231. “The county jail appears to be a hotbed of COVID-19 contamination.”
Warden Richard Smith and the County Board of Freeholders refused to adopt jail-wide Covid testing policies for inmates, officers, and staff. Instead, they waited nearly eight months to begin testing officers, according to an internal memo.
“Cumberland County could have been leaders on testing,” said Alterman. “Instead, the county’s lack of adequate and decisive action put the health and safety of inmates, public employees, and their families at risk. It is simply outrageous.”
To date, neither Warden Smith nor the Freeholders have ordered the mass testing of inmates.
“Such a lack of action endangers people’s lives,” said Alterman. “Smith and the freeholders have failed to protect the
inmates from this terrible virus, whose care, custody and control is solely within their responsibility.”
“These sad circumstances demonstrate the crisis of leadership in Cumberland County and at the Cumberland County Jail,” said Alterman.
Two weeks ago, Judge Steven J. Polansky issued an injunction on Cumberland County’s plan to ship inmates to Salem, Burlington and Atlantic counties, pending a January hearing. Effectively, the current layoff plan is on hold until the end of January.