Lawmaker hears concerns from prison staff over COVID


LAURINBURG AREA, NC (WBTW) — A North Carolina lawmaker recently heard concerns over COVID from staff at a local prison.

District 48 representative Garland Pierce said he visited Scotland Correctional Institution alongside agency officials Friday and heard from dozens of corrections officers and administrative staff.

“They just really were fearful of coronavirus and that how easily they could contract it and take it home to their families,” he said. “They really had a concern, they were all passionate about it, and the commissioner full well understood their concerns.”

Pierce said that some of the concerns stemmed around differing rates of emergency or ‘hazard’ pay for workers. He added that some worried about adequate PPE.

“If the nursing staff went in to an inmate to treat them in the cell, they had everything on, but the corrections officer at that point did not have all that on in case they had to intervene,” he explained.

He said that Department of Public Safety officials were there and some changes are underway that address the concerns.

“Persons who work in corrections are part of our communities,” Pierce said. “We know their families personally. We know many of them. And we want a safe environment for our workers. Because really of all the workers in North Carolina. They are really in a closed environment.”

NC DPS said safety for both offenders and staffers is a top priority.

The agency has undertaken many new policies and procedures in facilities statewide to keep people safe, the agency said. Some of those are:

  • All offenders and staff have at least three 3-ply face masks. Medical grade PPE is given to all staff providing direct care to COVID-19 positive offenders.
  • Cleaning is a priority in facilities
  • Prisons have put ‘offender movement procedures’ in place to ‘keep offenders from mixing with offenders from other cohorts’
  • Prisons have isolation, quarantine and treatment protocols if needed

The agency also offered this explanation for its handling of confirmed or possible cases:

Any offender who tests positive or displays symptoms for the virus are quickly removed from the offender population and placed in medical isolation to better ensure they don’t spread the virus. The housing units where the COVID-19 positive offender was housed are placed under medical quarantine for close observation and twice daily temperature checks. Any offender who subsequently shows symptoms of the virus is moved into medical isolation.

These protocols are in keeping with guidance from the CDC and DHHS.

Prisons have also recently ordered more PPE, which included over 650,000 masks, NC DPS said. The masks have all been distributed to staff and offenders statewide.

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