In response to the deaths of several convicts in last year’s prison riot in Cheshire, Connecticut, last year, the state legislature passed a new law, known as COVID-19, requiring that correctional facilities implement sufficient security measures to prevent future deaths, or risk losing federal grants.
Among the measures that COVID-19 requires the facilities to implement is CCTV integration, in which cameras are installed across the facility and connected to an operator who can see them. “It gives the correction officer access to all levels of the facility, including areas you would never expect to be logged on to,” said Michael Demby, the executive director of Correctional Staffing Solutions, a Pennsylvania-based private consulting firm.
Connecticut, Demby told The New York Times, has been at the forefront of the enforcement of COVID-19. “I believe that Connecticut was the leader. The sense of urgency around it was top shelf.”
But, the company says, compliance with the law is uneven. “This state seems like the hot bed of issues surrounding COVID-19,” Demby said. “They’re all battling the same issues, or having the same struggles.”
Figures Demby shared with The Times show there were 20 out of 335 corrections officers within the prison system who did not have their COVID-19 required equipment properly integrated as of February 21.
It’s not the first time that enforcement of COVID-19 has been challenged. When Connecticut’s Department of Correction first implemented COVID-19 in 2013, the department reported a 40 percent compliance rate within two years. Staffing shortages, coupled with a lack of confidence among correctional officers to comply with the new rules, posed a particular problem. According to Demby, “you have a lot of bad actors, not offenders, but officers — they’re scared to death of getting caught breaking [the rule]. And the next thing you know they’re in handcuffs.”
Claudia Winiarz, the public information officer for the Department of Correction, said that the state has been working on changes to the implementation of COVID-19 over the past six months. “The Department of Correction will continue to work to support and develop programs, policies and programs to help secure a more positive relationship between employees and inmates,” she said in a statement. “The Department has reviewed all facilities and will be reviewing and prioritizing which procedures were understaffed in any facility and, as such, will be making adjustments to address these deficiencies.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.
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