Operations suspended at one prison to bring relief to Neuse Correctional staff
Published 3:50 pm Monday, April 20, 2020
From North Carolina Department of Public Safety
RALEIGH — Due to the outbreakof COVID-19 at one prison facility, the North Carolina Division of Prisons temporarily suspended operations at another state prison facility and strategically transferred offenders in consultation with state health experts. To support operations at the coronavirus-impacted Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro, Prisons moved offenders out of Johnston Correctional Institution and reassigned staff to Neuse CI.
“The staff at Neuse have been working in the toughest conditions, for weeks on end, and desperately needed support,” said Todd Ishee, commissioner of prisons. “They are owed everyone’s thanks for their commitment to serving the public, standing tall in their daily responsibilities and helping ensure safety of their co-workers and those in custody.”
Ishee added his extension of a deep appreciation to those Johnston CI staff for stepping up to aid their colleagues. He said many across the system have shown their tenacity and skill at helping manage a constantly changing situation during the unprecedented and ongoing event.
A mass testing operation of the approximately 250 employees and 700 offenders at Neuse Correctional Institution has revealed a total of 13 staff and more than 330 offenders are infected with virus and 98% of those are asymptomatic. Another 197 test results are pending.
The first two offenders at Neuse tested positive for COVID-19 on April 2. As more tests returned as positive, Prisons took a proactive approach and worked with the Department of Health and Human Services, the State Laboratory for Public Health, LabCorp and the Wayne County Health Department in the major effort.
To bring staff some help and to keep security at appropriate levels there, over the weekend Prisons’ Incident Command team members took the following actions:
- Temporarily closed Johnston Correctional in Smithfield and transferred approximately 600 offenders to Southern Correctional Institution in Troy and to the Burke Confinement in Response to Violation Center in Morganton.
- Transported around 100 offenders from Southern CI to Tabor Correctional Institution in Columbus County to make room for the incoming offenders from Johnston Correctional.
- These movements, completed primarily on Saturday, freed up the staff at the now-closed Johnston facility for the majority to be reassigned to Neuse Correctional, located about 23 miles away.
- All transported offenders were medically screened — including temperature checks — before they were transported and when they arrived at their destinations. On their arrival, they were all placed under 14-day medical quarantine and did not mix with the existing offender population already housed there.
“No offenders from Neuse or any of those exhibiting any symptoms were transferred,” Ishee said. “These very strategic moves were done in consultation with medical experts and completed by following CDC guidelines.”
The transportation vehicles were disinfected before and after each trip. The offenders and staff were all outfitted with face masks. The transfers were completed without incident.
The Johnston CI staff should start arriving to help their colleagues at Neuse CI over the next few days. The staff reassigned to Neuse CI, like their colleagues working at the facility, will receive supplemental pay while on this assignment.
A truckload of PPE was delivered to the Neuse facility on Saturday as five portable, large-scale disinfectant-dispersal units called Power Breezers were used to clean the facility from top to bottom.
In addition, Prisons has taken more than three dozen actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the prisons, and to contain it within a facility if it does.
Some of those actions include:
- Provided extra soap and disinfecting supplies and required additional cleaning regimens.
- Increased Correction Enterprises production of washable cloth face masks. Approximately 79,000 have been produced so far. Masks have been made and distributed to staff and offenders in all 52 facilities.
- Extending the moratorium on the acceptance of offenders from the county jails through May 3 with support of the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association.
- Continuing the suspension of visitation, offender outside work assignments and offender home leaves for another 30 days, until May 16.
Those actions, along with the current public information on the number of offenders who have tested positive for virus statewide, can be found here: www.ncdps.gov/our-organization/adult-correction/prisons/prisons-info-covid-19.