The Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, a women’s jail in South Burlington, is modifying and monitoring practices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Other Paper exchanged correspondence with Monica Weeber, Administrative Services Director at the Vermont Department of Corrections, to learn more about those practices.
The Other Paper: I wanted to confirm: All visits have been stopped at this time.
Monica Weeber: The Department has suspended visits at all six facilities. Legal visits are still allowed. Information about visiting can be found the Department website.
TOP: Is there a Skype or other alternative for the women to speak with visitors? If so, what is it? Do they have the same amount of time as a regular visit?
Weeber: All inmates have received one, free 25-minute video visit per week and two free 5-minute calls per week. There are no restrictions on paid visits. Inmates can continue to communicate with people via email and phone calls.
TOP: How is the facility being sanitized at this time?
Weeber: The lobby, halls, offices, program rooms, and multi-use rooms are cleaned twice daily with a modified bleach solution. The kitchen area is cleaned per food industry standards.
Facility living units are cleaned at each head count. CRCF has 9 head counts per day. This is a standard practice and includes cleaning bathrooms, tables, showers, doorknobs, handles, etc.
TOP: How are transportation vehicles and other parts of the operation being cleaned?
Weeber: Transport vehicles are cleaned after each use.
TOP: Have any of the incarcerated women, corrections officers or other employees tested positive for COVID-19 or are being monitored for COVID-19?
Weeber: Staff are cared for by their own physicians, they are screened and tested per their providers’ decision.
We have been screening all new facility intakes since early February when the virus was confined to China. We have updated our screening to reflect the changes in risk factors such as including travel to places other than China. Most recently we adopted the screening questions developed by the Vermont Department of Health (VDH). Inmates are asked the questions prior to coming into the booking unit, if positive a mask is applied and medical is called for further review of the patient.
We have not tested any inmates for the COVID19. At this time, we have not had indication to do so. Our medical contractor, Centurion, and the VTDOC Director of Nursing communicate directly with the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and VDH for guidance as needed for specific patient questions when they arise.
TOP: What is the plan if anyone associated with the facility tests positive?
Weeber: The DOC [Department of Corrections] is developing plans to manage this situation if it arises. Further details are forthcoming.
TOP: How many medical professionals are on hand at CRCF who could respond to COVID-19 illness?
Weeber: This can change daily. Today, there are two providers on site. A provider can be an LPN, MD or PA. There are five nurses and one LNA. Our health care contractor, Centurion, is working with the DOC Director of Nursing to ensure consistent coverage at all six facilities.
TOP: Would an incarcerated person who falls ill be sent to a local doctor or hospital?
Weeber: We are developing plans to manage a case in a facility. The response will be determined by a health care provider on a case by case basis. Vermont DOC currently has three negative pressure (NP) cells that could be utilized if needed to include moving females to NWSCF [Northwest State Correctional Facility] for use of their NP cell.
TOP: Are new women being accepted in the facility at this time? Will that change?
Weeber: Yes. We have to accept people who are detained by law enforcement and the judiciary. This will not change.
TOP: Would women be moved from the prison if an outbreak occurred? Where would they go?
Weeber: We are developing plans to manage a case in a facility. The response will be determined by a health care provider on a case by case basis.
TOP: Would the jail consider releasing low-risk women awaiting trial at this time to decrease the jail population and the possibility of spread?
Weeber: DOC is reviewing ALL inmates who might be eligible for release. These decisions are made with the safety of the inmate and the public in mind.
TOP: How many incarcerated women are in CRCF today?
Weeber: Today (3/18/2020), there are 120 women incarcerated.
TOP: How many Correctional Officers work at CRCF?
Weeber: CRCF has a 75 people in a correctional officer role. That number includes people who are on military leave or other types of leaves or absences. On a typical day, the facility operates with about 55 correctional officers.