Inmates at Rikers Island Provided Handheld Gaming Devices During Coronavirus Pandemic

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As the coronavirus sweeps through the nation's correctional facilities, New York City has provided inmates at Rikers with a way to occupy their time.

Officials told the New York Daily News on Friday that thousands of inmates were given off-brand handheld gaming devices similar to a Nintendo Game Boy. In March, the city used taxpayers' dollars to purchase 5,500 devices from Finesse Creations, Inc. at $15 apiece. They were then distributed to inmates on Rikers Island and other NYC jails. 

Department of Corrections spokesman Peter Thorne explained that the gaming devices were provided to inmates after the city had to suspend visitations. Also, other liberties have been restricted to get inmates to adhere to social distancing policies as jails have become a hotbed for COVID-19. Rikers Island's chief physician, Ross MacDonald, described the coronavirus outbreak in the facility as a "public health disaster unfolding before our eyes." 

"This is not a generational public health crisis, rather it is a crisis of a magnitude no generation living today has ever seen," MacDonald said in April

Despite this, some people feel like the city's tax dollars could have been used on more beneficial things than entertaining inmates. The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association Correction Officers' Benevolent Association was hit with a lawsuit in April by employees who claimed that there is a lack of masks and coronavirus testing locations for workers. The association settled this lawsuit and the Department of Correction insists that there is enough personal protective equipment for inmates and employees.

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