The Delaware Department of Correction has defended a decision to not accept a shipment of facemasks from Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware.
“The DOC has reviewed our inventory of face masks and has determined that with our current inventory and existing procurement of face masks, including through Delaware Correctional Industries, we have sufficient supply chain to meet our needs. We recognize that there remains a need in the community for these items and we want to encourage you (Citizens) to donate the masks at your disposal to organizations that are experiencing short supply,” stated correction spokesman Jason Miller.
“After Citizens secured and distributed 10,000 masks last week to communities in need in Delaware, multiple local pastors and State Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover) had reached out to us to see if we could help secure masks for the DOC. Answering their call, we did, and we offered the masks to DOC who said yes immediately. Just hours later, they reversed course,” stated Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware Campaign Manager Chris Coffey. “If the DOC continues withholding lifesaving PPE from the prisoners under its care, then the state of Delaware will be directly complicit in the deaths of the inmates they are now going out of their way not to protect.”
Coffey contends that is morally outrageous that the DOC would reject these masks for inmates in the state prison system. Their refusal to accept outside assistance is even more reprehensible than the crucial weeks the agency wasted before even beginning to address the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities.”
According to corrections spokesman Miller, facemasks are being worn in prison, work release, and violation of probation facilities by all correctional officers and contract healthcare workers as an added layer of protection for inmates and staff, on top of DOC’s screening and cleaning measures. Face masks have been provided by the DOC to more than 2,100 inmates who are in infirmaries, those with compromised immune systems, and certain inmates with institutional jobs, including food service workers and all inmates at the only two facilities where there are inmate COVID cases – James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and Sussex Community Corrections Center.
The corrections systems has more than 4,000 inmates. Recent reductions in the inmate population have given the system the ability to operate isolation sites for those testing positive but not requiring hospitalization.
“If and when DOC leaders and medical professionals deem it necessary to further distribute face masks to inmates, DOC will have the capacity to do so. DOC is not and will not be accepting donations from the public for face masks,” Miller stated.
Previous releases have indicated that the masks can present security problems since contraband and even weapons can be hidden in masks. Advocates of the masks note that weapons and contraband can be hidden in prison clothing.
“If Mr. Coffey insists on delivering face masks to the DOC that it does not need instead of donating them to community-serving organizations and others who don’t have sufficient face mask supplies, the DOC is willing to to accept that delivery and provide the face masks to inmates being released back into the community at the conclusion of their court-ordered sentence. We also will work to identify community-serving organizations that can use additional face masks,” Miller stated.
Pastor Dale Dennis II of Hoyt Memorial CME Church in Wilmington, does not agree. “People of color make up over 60 pecent of Delaware’s prison population but less than 40 percent of our residents. We know that black and brown folks have been the victims of historic, systemic injustices at the hands of our criminal justice system, but the coronavirus crisis has put those that are incarcerated at a different level of vulnerability. I am joining the calls from many pastors across the state for the DOC to provide the care that they would want to receive and protect our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers housed in their correctional care.”
Citizens, which was organized by TransPerfect employees during a dispute over control of the New York-based company, has criticized state officials and the judiciary for the lack of diversity in the corporate legal system. During the coronavirus crisis, it has distributed facemasks to communities of color in Delaware.
Critics claim the group is funded current TransPerfect owner Philip Shawe, who was upset with the costs of the dispute, which by some accounts totaled a quarter of a billion dollars.
Litigation continues over fees charged related to the sale of the business services company that specializes in translation services.