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Prison Union Reacts to Outbreaks

COVID-19 cases are surging in two of our State Prisons. Now, the Officer’s Union wants more action to be taken. With cases at SCI Somerset on the rise, the Prison’s Union Representative told us they’re calling for a two week shut down and for more to be done. We told you back on November 12th that according to the DOC Dashboard, SCI Somerset had 62 active cases among inmates and 8 among staff members. But as of November 20th, DOC Officials say those numbers have risen to 148 active inmate cases and 28 positive staff members. If you check the Dashboard right now, it says there are 210 active inmate cases, but Officials from there told us that information could be delayed and not updated. Regardless: Union Representative John Eckenrode says something needs to be done to curb the trend. Eckenrode adding: “We would like to see them do a two-week shutdown and do a deep cleanse, and hopefully it’ll burn itself out inside the jail.”

Maria Bivens, Press Secretary for the PA Department of Corrections says they’re following recommendations from the PA Department of Health and CDC saying: “The housing unit where an inmate has tested positive for COVID-19 is deep cleaned and placed under an enhanced quarantine. Employees who report positive COVID-19 test results isolate at home and can’t return to work without a Doctor’s note. Inmates are kept in small groups and those groups never change, these are referred to as cohorts. Using cohorts helps to keep the number of inmates impacted small should COVID-19 appear within a cohort.” Eckenrode says despite these efforts when the inmates go out into the yard, there could be 250 of them together.

Eckenrode says the workers don’t get looked at like first line workers and feel disrespected. We also reached out to the PA Department of Health, but they were unavailable for comment.

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