In the wake of a swine flu outbreak at Rikers Island, city Department of Correction officials last week did not rule out transferring inmates to the Brooklyn House of Detention.
Out of about 13,400 inmates, there have been four confirmed cases of the flu at Rikers and four other cases that Health Department officials describe as probable, said DOC spokesperson Stephen Morello.
“We’re not ruling it [transfer] out or in at this point because it’s still too early to tell what steps are necessary,” said Morello.
Morello said if the outbreak at Rikers becomes more widespread, then transferring inmates to Brooklyn is a possibility.
DOC Commissioner Martin Horn has said he is maintaining the Brooklyn jail in a state of readiness, but with the current situation at Rikers it’s too soon to say what the department might do eventually, he said.
Morello’s comments come as several local activists and elected officials remain locked in a battle with the DOC to stop the planned expansion and reopening of the 759−bed facility at 275 Atlantic Avenue.
The group took the matter to court, which upheld the city’s right to reuse the existing jail, but said any expansion would be subject to an environmental and ULURP review.
Evan Thies, spokesperson for Stop the Brooklyn House of Detention, and candidate for the 33rd district City Council seat, said the DOC should spend money to restore facilities at Rikers to handle situations like the flu outbreak.
When pressed on whether the Brooklyn jail should take in inmates in the case of emergency, Thies said, “Hopefully they won’t have to resort to that. The impact on the local community would be extremely negative.”
Sandy Balboza, who heads the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association, said DOC officials should meet with the community to let them know the circumstances and possible options before any inmates are transferred to Brooklyn.