The protection of prisoners and other vulnerable populations is one of our top priorities and we have to be aggressive. A verse from Matthew reads: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” We will not forget that last part.
Amid the current public health emergency, we have taken a number of steps to provide a safe environment for inmates at our Corrections facilities, a/k/a the penal farm. In order to keep inmates safe, they are given masks regularly and replacement masks upon request. We have also doubled the amount of hygiene supplies provided. Lastly, we conduct daily screening and temperature checks for anyone entering the facility and access is limited. We will keep these protections in place for the rest of the year or longer if needed.
Furthermore, we want to continue to provide real-time, accurate COVID-19 related data on our inmate population. You can find that information, along with other Shelby County COVID-19 data, on our public data portal at data.shelbycountytn.gov.
In regards to COVID-19 testing, we have work to do. As in the past, data drives action. In partnership with the state, we have organized a COVID-19 testing surge at the Shelby County Jail at 201 Poplar. And we will do more. We are working with state officials to plan for a testing surge at the penal farm. During the surge, all inmates and staff at the penal farm will be offered a test.
On a separate note, inmates at the penal farm have begun manufacturing masks that we are supplying for free to the community and community partners. Over 2,000 masks have already been manufactured. As a result, we have been able to deliver masks for free to our partners at Agape, which serves thousands of children and families in our community. We’ve provided masks to HopeWorks, which specializes in re-entry and putting ex-offenders back on track. We’ve also donated masks to YMCA childcare centers, who are providing free childcare to our essential workers at several locations across our community, and the Shelby County Office of Re-Entry, which provides community services to individuals returning to our community from incarceration. We plan to continue supplying these community organizations with masks produced by the Division of Corrections.
This program not only produces masks for our community but allows inmates to learn a new skill, earn good behavior credit, and contribute to our fight against the novel coronavirus. We want to get through this together. Together, we will get through this.
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