How Are Jails Protecting Inmates from Coronavirus?
With more than 3,100 cases of COVID-19 or Coronavirus in Indiana, safety is on everyone’s mind. If you have a loved one in the Indiana penal system, you may be wondering what Indiana is doing to keep inmates safe and healthy. According to the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC), the IDOC and Wexford, the contracted healthcare provider for IDOC have protocols in place that involve education, screening, and isolation of health care staff, custody personnel, and offenders.
Education and Protection
Senior IDOC and Wexford clinical staff are conducting in-person and telephone educational briefings, posting flyers from the Indiana Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The IDOC staff is also airing educational announcements on the IDOC offender television system. In addition to educational materials, the department is working to ensure that all facilities have the materials necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including hand sanitizer and running water and soap.
Screening and Isolation
IDOC is also screening individuals at the places they are most likely to enter the system, including offender reception areas where IDOC first holds new prisoners. IDOC is also screening people in visitation areas where family members, attorneys, and other visitors can potentially bring COVID-19 in from the community. IDOC will also screen parole violators returning to the IDOC system.
If screening indicates that an offender has recently been in a location with a known COVID-19 outbreak and is showing symptoms of the virus, Wexford will place them in isolation until they can rule out a COVID-19 infection. For severe symptoms, local IDOC or Wexford staff will send offenders to a local hospital emergency room. For prospective visitors presenting with the same conditions, they are informed of their screening results and not permitted to enter an IDOC facility.
A recent letter from Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, House Speaker Todd Huston, and Chief Justice Loretta Rush gave local jurisdictions leeway in determining whether or not to offer an early release to low-risk, non-violent juveniles, and other inmates. While the letter stressed that no one solution would work for every community, it did encourage local leaders to work together to determine the safest way to lower the risk of COVID-19 infections in jails and prisons.