Two Cleveland women are demanding answers from the Bradley County Jail after learning inmates do not have access to face masks.
In addition, on Monday afternoon, the Bradley County Sheriff's Office issued a statement in response to an inquiry by the Cleveland Daily Banner stating that it "continues to work in compliance with all COVID-19 guidelines mandated by the Tennessee Corrections Institute."
Tiffani Dailey and Paris Kirby, who protested outside of the jail for several hours on Sunday and Monday morning, said they are concerned their loved ones will contract COVID-19, where as many as 40 — including inmates and correctional staff — have the virus, as reported by the Banner last week.
In an announcement last Tuesday
, Sheriff Steve Lawson confirmed testing for the coronavirus had returned 32 asymptomatic positive results among the county jail's inmates, seven positives among corrections officers and one in a contracted employee.
The local jail's first cases were confirmed on June 10, when two correctional officers tested asymptomatic positive for the virus, according to Taylor Woodruff, BCSO public information officer.
Dailey’s boyfriend is currently housed inside the facility. Kirby said she has some loved ones there, as well.
The two women are so concerned, they posted a petition
on change.org requesting an "investigation into the poor living conditions and lack or proper protection equipment” at the jail. The petition has gained more than 57,000 signatures since it was posted online last week.
“Why are COVID-19 positive inmates being housed with healthy inmates and not in their own specific medical pod?” the petition asks. “Why are inmates not being provided masks to cover their faces, instead they are forced to use their clothing/ bedsheets, etc? Why are they not being provided cleaning supplies?”
Dailey said her boyfriend, Jeremy Wade, was moved into the general population on Monday after spending 14 days in the quarantine pod. As of Monday afternoon, he still had not received the results of his COVID-19 test.
She said the quarantine pod was not secured against the virus.
“People are bonding out, doing another crime and coming right back in,” she said. “It’s just a revolving door. They may have tested negative a week prior, but they went out into the public, caught it and came back in. It’s not right.”
Wade, Dailey’s boyfriend, told the Cleveland Daily Banner during a video chat program that “conditions inside the jail are not good at all.”
“Nothing is disinfected,” he said. Not the rooms or phones.”
He said there were inmates who were coughing inside the pod, who were eventually moved out into the general population.
In addition, Wade said inmates do not have access to masks.
He also said the disinfectant is not being used to fight the virus.
“They’re just using hot water to mop the floors,” he said.
Wade said every officer has a mask and a shield to protect their faces.
“We tried making masks with our uniforms, but they said we would be charged with destruction of property,” he said.
Dailey said the jail does not permit her to mail Wade a mask, nor is he permitted to order one.
Kirby said she attempted to get masks to her loved ones. However, someone in the medical unit told her it was not permitted.
“They said, ‘Well, if we give one to one of the inmates, we have to give it to all of them,’” she said. “There’s no process.’
She said the person claimed the masks were not needed since the inmates had already been exposed to COVID-19.
“So, it really didn't seem like it was that big of an issue to them,” she said.
As of Monday, no one from the jail had ventured outside to talk with the women about their concerns.
“They've driven by us and also taken pictures of us,” Dailey said.
According to Monday's statement, the Bradley County Jail continues to work in compliance with all COVID-19 guidelines mandated by the Tennessee Corrections Institute.
"Jail administration has and will work closely with authorities at TCI; likewise, jail medical staff has and will work closely with the Bradley County Health Department, following the mandated guidelines," Lawson said. "The following procedures are observed today and have been since they were put into effect in March of 2020"
All incoming inmates booked at the Bradley County Jail receive a COVID-19 screening from a nurse with the jail’s medical staff during his/her intake process.
"During this intake process, the nurse conducts a question-and-answer screening, inquiring if the inmate is experiencing any symptoms relating to COVID-19, if the inmate suspects that he/she has contracted or has been exposed to COVID-19 and if the inmate has been out of the country in the past two months," Lawson said.
The inmate being screened is then offered the opportunity to receive testing for COVID-19, which comes at no cost to the inmate.
"Each inmate has the option to refuse testing, if he/she does not wish to be tested," Lawson said. "This screening is recorded and documented with signatures from both the inmate and the nurse."
Following the screening process, if there is no indication of illness, the inmate’s pod assignment is defaulted to a designated isolation pod, where they will remain in isolation for 14 days, to ensure they are free of COVID-19, Lawson explained.
"While in isolation, the inmate’s temperature is checked once every 12 hours (twice daily) and is given an opportunity to report any contracted symptoms relating to the virus," Lawson said.
Once an inmate's 14-day isolation is completed, they will then be assigned and transferred to a regular pod to serve the rest of their time.
"If, at any point, an isolated inmate shows confirmed signs of contracting the virus, he or she will be transferred to the designated quarantine pod," Lawson said. "Whether the inmate is in or out of isolation, he or she may request and receive medical attention or COVID-19 testing."
Lawson said if the inmate posts bond or for any other reason does not remain in custody for 14 days, they will not be required to complete the full 14-day isolation.
"If and when the aforementioned screening process indicates that an incoming inmate is experiencing any symptoms relating to COVID-19, has a fever or tests positive after a voluntary COVID-19 test, he or she will immediately be assigned to a designated quarantine pod," Lawson said.
When an inmate is placed in the quarantine pod, they will remain there for 14 days. While in quarantine, the inmate’s temperature is checked once every 12 hours and receives appropriate care from the jail’s medical staff.
"Once the inmate’s 14-day quarantine is completed, he or she will be tested for COVID-19," Lawson said. "If the test returns negative, the inmate will be assigned and transferred to a regular pod to serve the rest of his or her time. If the test returns positive, the inmate will remain in quarantine for another 14 days, at which time the same process and procedures will be followed until a negative test is received. "
Currently, there are 33 inmates in the designated quarantine pod, who have all tested positive for COVID-19, but have remained asymptomatic.
According to Lawson, "every regular pod, including the isolation pod and the quarantine pod are provided with a cleaning cart equipped with all necessary cleaning supplies needed for proper disinfectant of surfaces."
"These cleaning products are provided to inmates by the Bradley County Jail," he said. "A cleaning cart is located in every pod and restocked daily."
BCSO Public Information Officer Taylor Woodruff told the Banner the cleaning products are supplied by CINTAS.
At this time, the Tennessee Corrections Institute, which is over local jails — not to be confused with Tennessee Department of Corrections, which is over state prisons — has not issued any requirements mandating the use of masks or gloves for inmates, Lawson said.
"At the request of the Bradley County Jail, the National Sheriff’s Association and Tennessee Sheriff’s Association sent several hundred masks," Lawson said. "These masks are currently undergoing modifications to meet qualifications for inmate use and will be distributed as soon as possible."
BCSO Capt. Jerry Johnson said "as stated in previous releases, we are doing everything we possibly can to combat this virus."
“As our resources allow, are going above and beyond any requirements mandated by the Tennessee Corrections Institute," he said.
Lawson said he and jail staff have "done their very best to stay on top of the
COVID situation since the beginning."
“We will continue working closely with TCI and the Bradley County Health Department, following every guideline that is given to us, but we will also go the extra mile by using these masks for our inmates at this time," he said. "I have said it many times and I will say it again: the health of our inmates and jail staff is my top priority. We have shown that by following every mandated given to us and then some."