With the numbers growing daily on people affected by COVID-19, the Boonville Correctional Center is doing its part inside the facility to thwart the spread of the disease.
No one in Missouri Department of Corrections facilities has tested positive for COVID-19 so far, department Communications Director Karen Pojmann said. One offender who was in isolation and later transported to a hospital contracted the virus outside of a corrections facility. A staff member out on leave for an unrelated reason tested positive during their time on leave.
Boonville Correctional Center currently houses 870 offenders, but the facility has a capacity to hold 1,346.
Each correctional facility has a viral containment plan. Because the Boonville facility has a lot of open bay housing, visiting and transfers among units was suspended, Pojmann said.
“We’re trying to keep [units] together, so they all go together to the dining hall for a meal,” Pojmann said. “They also will go together to pick up any medication they need and recreation as well. They are not intermixing with other housing units.”
Offenders now have up to two free 10-minute phone calls each week through Securus to help offenders stay in contact with family and friends while offender visits are suspended. The call credits are assigned weekly and the receiving party is not charged. They also can send two free tablet-based based monitored emails per week with JPay.
Offenders and staff coming into the facility are being heavily screened, she said. Facilities also have enhanced sanitation and cleaning schedules. Staff and vendors are asked if they had a fever of 100.4 degrees in the past 24 hours, if they had contact with a person who tested postive for COVID-19 and about any travel. Each facility also has thermometers to check temperatures. All correctional centers now have Isolation cells, wings or units and offenders showing any sign of disease are isolated.
Offenders doing any cleaning or laundry are provided protective equipment.
“We’re making sure no one runs out of cleaning supplies at each facility,” Pojmann said. “There is on-site, around-the-clock medical care at every facility and all the people providing it have been trained in COVID-19 response.”
There still are challenges.
Boonville, since it is an older facility, has faced problems with maintaining hot water. If there is a lack of hot water, it usually is only for a couple hours while the problem is addressed, Pojmann said. Offenders still are getting hot meals on a daily basis, as well, she said.
There is less programming than normal due to volunteer restrictions. Offenders still have access to education and to spiritual programs.
Missouri Vocational Enterprises started a new program to combat COVID-19 for prison facilities. The company is providing face masks and distributing those to staff and offenders, Pojmann said.
The department is trying to do as much as it can but it’s hard to keep people six feet apart at all times or limit a group to 10 people in a prison facility, she said. So, the big focus to on keeping the virus out of the facilities.
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