In an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease among detainees and staff, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has implemented the use of UV technology at the W.C. “Dub” Brassell Detention Center.
In an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease among detainees and staff, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has implemented the use of UV technology at the W.C. “Dub” Brassell Detention Center.
“We took full advantage of standalone UV Emitters as well as those installed within the HVAC system of our detention centers,” said Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office sheriff Lafayette Woods, Jr. “We’re very excited about this technology.”
According to Crystal IS, a U.S. based manufacturer of high-performance LEDs that emit UV light, the technology can be used for disinfecting water, destroying harmful micro-organisms in food products and the air and disinfecting water. Additionally, UVC radiation ranging from 250 nm - 280 nm causes harmful micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses to be ineffective by destroying the genetic information in the DNA. Essentially, the micro-organisms lose their reproductive capability thus destroying it.
“UV Emitters were installed during the early phases of the initial construction of our detention centers,” said Woods. “However, we began exploring a broader expansion of the system during the implementation of our detention center pandemic plan just prior to the first confirmed case of COVID-19 here in Jefferson County. We saw an absolute need for expansion, because of the protection the system provides to staff, detainees and authorized visitors.”
Woods disclosed that the expansion is funded by a “dedicated medical operating fund within the detention centers approved budget.” He went on to say that it’s eligible for reimbursement under the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program administered by a Bureau of Justice Assistance Grant with a $58,000 minimum grant award amount.
“The health and safety of all our staff, community and detainees despite what caused them to be detained at our detention center is of the utmost importance to me and our administrative staff,” he said. “I will continue to look for ways to help my staff do their jobs in these uncertain times. UV Emitters aid us in limiting the potential exposure to the coronavirus and spreading it in the event it manages to enter into our detention centers.”
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office isn’t the only law enforcement agency using UV technology to kill germs within the jails. An NBC affiliate in Madison, WI. reported how the Dane County Sheriff’s Office plans to use Skytron UV Emitters in its facility.
"I'm very excited that this kind of new technology can be brought into the jail system, into the correctional system and in particular into the Dane County Jail as we try to address COVID-19 and its impact," said Dane County Sheriff’s Office sheriff Dave Mahoney in an interview with WMTV.
The W.C. ‘Dub’ Brassell Detention Center accommodates 319 detainees and its records show that there are currently 215 housed at the facility. Thirty-six staff members work at the center. Upon daily arrival, staff members complete a questionnaire about the virus and get a temperature check with a no touch thermometer. Woods explained detainees experience a similar process based on guidelines in the JCSO’s pandemic policy.
“All arrestees that are considered as new to intake are screened medically as part of our normal intake protocol, but also undergo additional screening in the form of a coronavirus questionnaire in addition to having their temperature checked prior to being accepted,” he said.
Despite the policy, Woods stated that his office has at times not admitted people into the center out of concern for the current safety of those already inside of it.
“We have turned away approximately 30 to 40 detainees,” Woods said. “They were turned away due to the fear that they may have been exposed by someone who has been exposed themselves or tested positive for the virus.”
In March, the staff admitted 39 people and 13 in April, all of which have remained in the center.
“There have been detainees who have been admitted for short amounts of time during this period who have been released,” he said. “They may have stayed overnight for a D.W.I. or a domestic battery. Those numbers are not reflected.”
Woods revealed detainees can’t strictly follow particular guidelines set forth by the Arkansas Department of Health encouraging people to stand six feet apart from each other during the pandemic.
“Detainees have normal access within their respective housing units and unrestricted areas,” he said. “Due to the layout or floor plans with respect to housing areas for detainees, we are not able to follow social distancing guidelines inside the detention center.”
Thirty miles south of Pine Bluff in Lincoln County, the Cummins Unit has at least 860 inmates and 51 staff who have tested positive for COVID-19, based on numbers provided by the Arkansas Department of Health. It’s the largest outbreak of any Arkansas Department of Corrections facility in the state and consequently dubbed a hotspot.
“… We’ve seen that our outbreak at the Cummins Unit, for example, is wrapping up in terms of testing…,” said Nate Smith, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, in a April 27 press conference. “…When we were testing in the Cummins Unit, in particular, we were seeing a much, much higher positivity rate because we know we have a lot of people exposed in a contained setting…”
In the event of an outbreak, the W.C. ‘Dub’ Brassell Detention Center has a medical staff which includes multiple nurses and a doctor. As of now, detainees have not received any PPE (personal protection equipment). However, Woods insists that the medical staff has a stockpile of PPE and gloves to issue to detainees if a potential risk to exposure to COVID-19 arises. The center also undergoes continuous cleaning to combat the virus.
“Each day, detention center maintenance along with the help of individuals assigned to the Sheriff’s Office Clean Team spend hours disinfecting areas of the detention center to include the kitchen, detainee housing areas, equipment, floors and other surfaces using commercial-grade chemical specific to the coronavirus and those similar,” Woods said. “Our detention center also owns and has deployed its Electrostatic Spraying System that is applied by fogging or misting to disinfect hard, nonporous surfaces within our detention center. The system is safe, non-caustic, non-corrosive, odorless and kills over 40 viruses in addition to mold and mildew.”