‘Only a Matter of Time.’ At This Washington State Immigrant Detention Center, Attorneys Believe a Coronavirus Outbreak Is Inevitable

Originally published by Jasmine Aguilera, Time on 13/03/2020

Summary

The Tacoma Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) had been open with immigration attorneys visiting with their clients and representing them at hearings and families were visiting.ICE says they have been: – screening new arrivals at all of its facilities; – reviewing guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a daily basis to update its protocols as needed.On Friday evening March 14th, ICE announced it was temporarily suspending social visitation at all facilities as a precautionary measure. It is also actively working with state and local health partners to determine if any detainee requires additional testing or monitoring to combat the spread of the virus. They can also isolate and quarantine individuals if they determine such protocols are required. A GEO Group spokesperson, the private company contracted by ICE to run the facility, says they have issued guidance to their facilities in line with the CDC and WHO on best practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They also claim to have updated their policies and procedures to include the prevention, assessment and management of the coronavirus. They will continue to monitor and evaluate in conjunction with their government partners and local health agencies to ensure the health and safety of all those in their care.GEO Group did not offer any specific examples of any health protocols implemented. Immigration lawyers who visited the facility this week say that the only changes they’ve noticed are signs at the front entrance telling people in multiple languages not to come into the building if they’re feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms of the virus. The immigration lawyers have noticed hand sanitizer at some locations within the facility, but not at others. The guards at the facility, when asked if they knew of any precautionary measures, did not appear to be receiving any sort of active communication about what precautionary measures are being taken .

READ MORE

Jails and courthouses across Washington look for ways to protect employees, jurors and inmates from coronavirus

Originally published by Sara Jean Green, Seattle Times on 10/03/2020

Summary

John McGrath, the jail-services liaison for the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs (WASPC) has said, in response to the coronavirus, officials in all of Washington’s county, city and tribal jails are: – increasing health screenings of incoming inmates; – more frequently cleaning intake areas and common rooms; – stockpiling surgical masks and other protective gear; and – putting plans together to respond to a potential outbreak of the virus in the jails’ “closed environments”.Courts are also allowing, in some criminal cases, for hearings to be conducted by phone and is expediting a project that was already in the works to allow both in-custody and out-of-custody criminal defendants to make appearances by video.Containing the virus is far greater for jails, where people are brought in from the streets, compared to prisons, which house people convicted of felonies and tend to have more stable populations. A UW affiliate professor distributed a memo to WASPC members last week, outlining best practices based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He’s also part of a recently-established WASPC work group with representatives from all the state’s jails, who are participating in weekly conference calls and sharing information through WASPC’s member server.At King County Jail in Seattle and RJC in Kent, jail staff already have taken steps to prevent the virus’ spread. They include: – increased cleaning; – enhanced health screenings at intake for people exhibiting symptoms before they’re assigned to housing units; and – directing staff who are able to telecommute to do so.Jail staff have worked with the Snohomish Health District to establish a process to screen, identify, isolate (if necessary), and treat any inmate who presents at the jail with symptoms.

READ MORE