Infrequent showering and cleaning, lack of distancing at Va Women’s Correctional Center, says inmate

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GOOCHLAND, Va (WRIC) — Inside Virginia’s largest clustered cases of COVID—19 in prisons, an inmate says a lack of cleanliness, social distancing and communication have those incarcerated on edge.

The Virginia Department of Corrections reported the first inmate fatality from the coronavirus at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland.

According to corrections data, between the VCCW and nearby State Farm Work Center 20 inmates on-site tested positive for COVID—19, four have been hospitalized, one died and 34 staff also tested positive.

Jacqueline Mills says she and other inmates in her 82-person dorm can only shower every three days, and have to wash their state-issued mask during laundry or by hand. 

”We haven’t even been allowed to actually clean our rooms for the most part since we’ve been locked down,” Mills said.

Speaking on the phone, Mills said social distancing is infrequent and not being achieved in many instances. 

“We can’t do social distancing because we’re all using the same phones and I’m sitting within maybe six inches of the girl next to me right now.“

Online the VDOC says “there is plenty of soap and water at the facilities, and that remains the best way to keep hands clean.”

However, Mills said inmates were given two bars of soap at the end of March,  and additional soap must be paid for.

“We shower every three days…” “We were supposed to be given two bars of soap a week. We have only been given two bars of soap one time,” Mills said.

According to Mills, inmates in her dorm at ‘Building 6’ were removed for cleaning, but they were not kept apart.

“On April 2 we got put down in the basement because they wanted to ‘fog,’ I guess they called it…” “and we were down there for four hours. When we came back up on the floor two people from our dorm had to be sent to medical for COVID—19 symptoms and they haven’t been back since.”

The Virginia Department of Corrections said in a response to 8News that a cleaning plan has been posted and is being “enforced” on all housing floors, including hall and cell cleaning. VADOC disputed inmates’ claims that they haven’t been given soap since the end of March.

VADOC provided a list shower schedules for inmates after some told 8News they were only allowed to shower every three days. The department also noted the distance between the five phones in Building 6.

Read the full statement from the Virginia Department of Corrections below:

The DOC’s Medical Epidemic/Pandemic Sanitation Plan is enforced and posted on all housing unit floors; this includes both hall cleaning and offender cell cleaning. Hall cleaning occurs at 8:30am, 10:00am, 12:30pm, 3:15pm, 6:30pm, 8:30pm, 11:00pm, and 12:30 am. Offender cell cleaning is scheduled to occur daily at 8:30am, 10:00am, 12:30pm, and 3:15pm. The shower schedule for VCCW includes odd cell numbers to shower Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday while even cell numbers shower Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Offender workers shower daily, regardless of their housing location or cell number. Soap is regularly provided at no cost to each offender and upon request; if an offender is not in need of additional soap they may refuse the additional soap. 

Sneeze guards masks are to be laundered daily regardless of the laundry schedule for other clothing. If a replacement sneeze guard mask is needed, they are available upon offender request. All offenders and staff must wear these utility masks at all times unless wearing another form of PPE, such as an N-95 mask. 

The DOC contracted Bio-One Richmond, which specializes in biohazard clean up and property restoration, for deep cleaning of two designated high risk housing units at VCCW.

In the offender’s housing unit you referenced in your story, there are five phones available for use. In this housing unit the phones are a minimum of 29” apart and 18” by 24 1/2” plexi-glass telephone guards have been installed between each phone as a COVID-19 safeguard measure.

The Virginia Correctional Center for Women and the Virginia Department of Corrections are taking every precaution recommended by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) to ensure safety of all offenders, staff, and public.

Lisa Kinney, Virginia Department of Corrections spokeswoman

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