Inmates urged to sign waiver releasing state prison from liability amid Covid outbreak

Hundreds of people at Stafford Creek Correctional Facility – more than a quarter of inmates and dozens of staff – have tested positive for coronavirus in the past month.

A total of 568 inmates and 41 staff at Stafford Creek, located around 8 miles southwest of Aberdeen, have tested positive. The next largest outbreak is at the Monroe Correctional Complex, with 28 inmates and 33 staff.

A Stafford Creek inmate said the prison service should have done more to stop the outbreak from spreading. But the prison has asked inmates to sign waivers holding the prison and its employees harmless if they catch Covid.

Lawrence Jenkins, a Stafford Creek inmate, said even after several people tested positive, units with and without Covid cases had to mingle in the outside hallways waiting for food and medicine.

“It immediately alarmed me,” Jenkins said. “Like, you know, if there are positive cases, why are they moving us, congregating us like this, packing us into these lines to go to the food hall, to go to the line of medications?”

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections confirmed in an email the accuracy of Jenkins’ account, but said, “As transmission of COVID outdoors is minimal, no cases of COVID have been attributed to the brief interactions that occurred.”

Jenkins said that even after the units stopped mixing, prison officers moved back and forth between units for tasks such as food deliveries.

The Corrections Department spokesperson said in an email: ‘Our funded staffing model requires some officer positions to work across multiple units. Our staff receive appropriate PPE to carry out their work safely and prevent the spread of the virus. »

The spokesperson also said there was a person at the prison responsible for ensuring that all prison officers wear their masks correctly at all times throughout the prison, among other duties.

Jenkins said the prison was slow to provide Covid test results. He said he was tested for Covid on May 10 and was not informed until May 26 that he had tested positive.

“So they went two whole weeks without telling me, even warning me, that I was Covid positive,” he said.

The Department of Corrections spokesperson said outside labs have sometimes been slow to return PCR test results, but the prison follows up with the lab if there is an unusual delay and still provides test results to officials. detained as soon as they are available.

In recent weeks, the prison has started asking inmates to sign waivers agreeing to hold the prison and its employees harmless if they catch Covid.

Prison officials have offered inmates with pre-existing conditions a choice: They can go to solitary confinement, also known as the “hole,” or they can agree to hold prison officials harmless if they catch Covid or Covid long distance, or if they die.

Jenkins was not one of those asked to sign the waiver, but he got a copy from a fellow inmate and read it over the phone.

“I refuse this treatment or procedure: Covid-19 single-cell individual quarantine during an outbreak in my living unit,” it read. Jenkins said the form then lists all the bad things that can happen to someone who catches Covid: lung damage, ongoing brain fog and fatigue, death, etc.

The waiver adds that the prison cannot guarantee that even people in solitary confinement will not get Covid.

Jenkins said the inmates did not receive legal representation until they were asked to sign those waivers.

A Corrections spokesperson said in an email that the waivers were “for individuals who do not wish to participate in testing, treatment, isolation and quarantine to help reduce risk, liability and promote the health of voluntary participants”.

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