As previously reported, the officers at the Washington State Penitentiary are not wearing masks as required, which has caused a new spike in positive COVID-19 tests and many areas are on quarantine status.
As of November 23, 2020, there are around 17 new cases and the East, South, West Complexes and Health Services Building (HDB) are on quarantine status. COVID-19 testing is being done on all individuals housed in those areas. Transfers have been put on hold unless urgent.
This is affecting many operations within the facility. There is a lack of trained food service workers, all outpatient medical appointments at HSB have been put on hold and many officers are being required to work extra shifts.
Yet, even after all of this, I still observe officers remove their masks and congregate together in close proximity — even in the quarantine area of HSB where I am currently located.
It begs the question: When will the Department of Corrections (DOC) take this seriously?
Our welfare is in their hands, yet they don’t wear masks. This not only jeopardizes our health and safety, but it allows COVID-19 to be brought into the facility and spread.
Overcrowding is still a problem, and we cannot socially distance from others. Major changes need to happen to get on top of this, and the officers need to be held accountable for their negligence.
The DOC needs to ensure our safety by whatever means possible, including releasing nonviolent and short-term individuals. I pray that the DOC will make changes necessary and take COVID-19 seriously to ensure safety for all of our officers and inmates.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.