During approximately the first eight months of the pandemic, Howard County Prisons were relatively free from outbreaks that spread to Indiana and other countries.
But then came on November 20th.
That morning, at a press conference led by a recent increase in COVID-19 positive cases, Howard County Sheriff Jerry Usher said that 226 prisoners, more than half the prison population at the time, were infected with the virus. I told the people that I did.
The first case immediately sent the facility to blockade mode, and the prison remains so after almost two weeks.
Approximately 50 additional positive cases were added the day after the meeting, and authorities said even some prison officials were subsequently positive or quarantined.
Sheriffs said a quality correctional care doctor with a prison contract would come to the facility later this week to reassess the situation.
Usher also said that three of the prison employees who tested positive belonged to the institution’s nursing department, causing outward concerns for families currently in prison.
Over the past few days, Tribune has received several phone calls and emails expressing those concerns, which is the topic Usher wanted to talk about during a telephone interview with Tribune last Monday.
“I want the public to know that we are doing our best,” he said. “We want to keep it out of the facility, but obviously it’s not. But we mitigate it and it’s as safe as everyone’s loved ones can keep it. I want to make sure that there is. “
Usher added that safety is the key word.
Life in a blockade
However, for current prisoners, blockade means that there is no dating or outside visits with friends or family, and while with great care and restrictions, Usher allows visits through tablets. It states that it has been resumed.
Recent outbreaks also mean that already enhanced cleaning measures have been forced into overdrive, along with safety protocols such as mandatory masking and social distance in buildings, officials said. Stated.
Prison commander Captain Robin Buyers said the facility is currently being thoroughly cleaned three to four times a day.
“I think we use a backpack sprayer up to four times a day,” she said. “We also have hand sanitizers and disinfectants on all workstations. We give all prisoners an additional bar of soap and cleaning supplies to clean the room three times a day, sometimes Give 4 times.
“When people go out to take a shower, we disinfect the shower every time we use it,” added Buyers. “If a prisoner is using or touching something, everything will be disinfected before another prisoner touches the kiosk. When the court is in progress … the prisoner talks to the judge. After sitting at the table and getting up to do, the whole area is disinfected. The process is a bit slower because it has to be dried, but the court is very much allowed to allow us to do it. We are working patiently. “
Buyers said prisoners are now also served meals in Styrofoam disposable containers to avoid contamination when transporting trays, but due to viral uncertainty, yet another change has been made. I was broken.
But perhaps the biggest change of all was to find a way to isolate most of the prison population while at the same time isolating other prisons. According to Buyers, this has never been easier.
“The entire prison is blocked,” she said. “All our prisoners have gone through a quarantine process because we don’t want mutual pollution. Don’t inadvertently mix positive and negative people. There are a lot of people here and You have to stay away. Just put everyone in quarantine and they all go through a 14-day period …. We keep everyone isolated from everyone. “
Neither Byers nor Asher had accurate statistics on the current positive cases in prison during a conversation with Tribune on Monday, but said that neither case caused serious symptoms. I pointed out immediately.
“Medical staff, they [those inmates who are COVID positive] If there are still signs and symptoms and there are still complaints, “the buyers said. “So far, no one has major symptoms. Absolutely no one. Most are very minor who are treated with what the doctor recommends or prescribes. Most of them are commercially available. Beyond pain relief. “
Another way prison officials said they were trying to reduce the risk of continued spread within the facility was to release some prisoners at the time of arrest, depending on the level of crime, but buyers said. Felony arrests have increased and prisoners have been in prison for longer.
“Unless domestic violence, OWI, release contempt at the time of arrest [operating while intoxicated] Or PI [public intoxication].. When they calm down, we summon them. Domestic violence, it’s a crime against people, so they have to combine. Weapon charges, they need to be combined. They must form a bond, resisting law enforcement. They are contempt that must be tied, but once everyone else enters, they are dealt with. “
For arrested people who needed to stay longer, Buyers said new prisoners were processed and kept in containment area for the next seven days while staff could monitor their symptoms. The prisoner is then transferred to another unit and quarantined.
Rapid inspection is now available among prisoners. According to Usher, it helps alleviate questions about whether someone is infected with COVID, especially if they have symptoms.
However, concerns about prisoners are not the only issue in the minds of prison staff.
“We’re hanging out,” Buyers said when asked about the current number of employees in the prison. “I have two activated by the military, and they are off until we think after the beginning of the year, but we are not 100% sure …. they are a month It disappeared for a moment …. So we have two cops there. And some couples haven’t quarantined, but we’re trying to rebuild our staff from the beginning of the year … There are some that are still in training. “
Many of our employees also work overtime to help with staffing issues.
But despite the chaos at the facility, Buyers said they were proud of how their employees handled everything.
“People think it might be easy, the prison is closed, but there is still something we have to do as an officer,” she said. “We take people to the shower and make sure everything is disinfected and each room is complete. We still have to feed. We still have laundry. I We still have court people to do. Guard tours to do. Keep cleaning everything. Overtime to help cover officers and also try to cover their shifts. They all did a great job of staying on top of it all. The staff are extraordinary. “
Byers further stated that these issues are not specific to the HCJ. The virus has changed in so many areas of society over the past few months and has affected lives.
“We are not the only state prisons currently passing through this,” she said. “… we’re not the only ones there. Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones on this boat.”
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