Lack of adherence to COVID-19 guidelines leaves DOC Commissioner with serious concerns

Published: Sep. 29, 2020 at 6:28 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WMTW) - Documents from the Maine Department of Corrections reveal that after an outbreak of the coronavirus at the York County Jail, where more than 80 people contracted the virus, some county jails were not enforcing the wearing of face coverings and fell short of meeting health and safety guidelines from the Maine CDC.

The Maine CDC said last month they were looking into whether a lack of face coverings contributed to the outbreak at the York County Jail.

DOC documents summarizing pandemic response plans at Maine’s 14 county jails, as well as safety protocol, were recently released.

The site visits took place in late August and early September.

The agency found the Kennebec County Correctional facility was not requiring staff to wear face coverings.

Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason also told WMTW not all inmates were wearing face coverings either.

“If they choose not to wear it, I am not going to have four people hold them down to put it on. That would be kind of ridiculous,” Sheriff Mason said.

The report also says jail staff was not being screened for symptoms.

Sheriff Mason says correctional facility staff has done everything in their power to prevent an outbreak and the fact they haven’t had one is proof of their success.

“We’re criticized but yet we had no cases of COVID within our facility, which means since this started we have been doing the right things,” said Mason.

Randall Liberty, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, called the report’s findings ‘concerning’ and said, “Any time we hear or there is a complaint that is filed that any of the county correctional facilities are noncompliant, we step in and do sort of a surprise inspection. We did one last week and we’re going to continue to do that.”

The DOC found several jails lacked necessary language in their response plans outlining procedures for transferring inmates, diversion plans if they cannot take more inmates, and plans to secure more personal protective equipment should they run short.

Other jails that did not meet guidelines related to masks include the Knox County Jail which, according to the DOC, did not require staff to wear masks.

Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center in Waldo did not require visitors to wear masks, according to the report.

The agency also said the Somerset County Jail did not require inmates and visitors to wear face coverings.

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