By Frederick H. Lowe
The National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice wants to require men and women who work in prisons and jails, immigration and juvenile detention centers to wear personal protective equipment to protect them and their families from the coronavirus.
The recommended protective gear includes masks, gloves and head gear. There is also a growing national discussion that prison guards should receive hazardous pay because of their job involves a high amount of risk degree of risk of catching a disease that could afflict them and their families.
“Corrections staff and first responders are exposed at higher levels and are at higher risk of infection; they are required to serve in close proximity with those who are asymptomatic and those who are confirmed for COVID-19,” association leaders said.
“The lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) within in correctional institutions is a national public safety issue, yet there has been little national attention to the need for adequate safety precautions to protect officers, staff and incarcerated residents. Stopping the spread is impossible when staff leave work to return to their homes and communities unaware that they may be spreading the virus,” the association announced.
The life and death of people employed by jails working in close proximity to inmates is a very real concern.
Cook County Jail in Chicago recently announced that a second inmate died after testing positive for the coronavirus. Officials also announced that Sheila Rivera, 47, a corrections officer at the jail, died from the disease, according to a statement released by the Cook County Sheriff’s office.
The National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, which is based in Tarrytown, New York, under the mailing address of Blacks in Law Enforcement for America said African Americans suffer from high rates of death from COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and coronary disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that blacks comprise 33.7 percent COVID-19 infections yet African Americans make up 14 percent of the U.S. population but are 40 percent of prison or jail inmates.
“These statistics alone increase the need to provide PPE to the most vulnerable to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and decrease the mortality rate. In New York City, home of one of the world’s largest correctional facilities, corrections officers had to sue to get protective gear and cleaning supplies.”