Guidance on Management of the Coronavirus: 3 Tips for Correctional Facilities

Correctional facilities are struggling in the face of COVID-19. From inmates to corrections officers, there are worries about ongoing exposure. On top of that, with overtime, questions of staff members’ competence, and retention issues, and it’s no wonder that many a correctional institute is looking to revamp its workforce.

So, what can administrators do to improve prison conditions during a pandemic? The correctional workforce is rapidly shifting and there are several ways that correctional administrators can stay ahead of the ongoing changes.

Preparedness

Despite concerns about inmate management, ongoing overtime, and the lack of qualified applicants for corrections officer positions, there are things that corrections staff members can do to ensure that both prisons and jails and prepared for ongoing coronavirus concerns. Many federal prisons and state employees are working on more effective communication protocols. This is helping the correctional workforce to better coordinate their efforts to keep inmates, corrections workers, and visitors safe.

Since the Federal Bureau of Prisons hasn’t had to handle such sweeping changes in recent years, it’s important for corrections spaces to set clear, objective goals and enforce each new statute. This extends to police departments as well. Even though they aren’t traditional corrections environments, part of this coordination is designed to help all facilities reach the same competency standards.

Preparedness also includes reviewing sick leave policies, planning for potential sick leave in the face of supervisor exposure, providing reasonable accommodation and payroll allowances in response to impairment, and developing a smarter attendance solution. Many such work environments are searching for a customized scheduling solution that is more flexible than the average Kronos timecard. This can also help monitor overtime expenses for law enforcement officers.

Though much of this went into effect July, tight budgets are impacting correctional workforce management in a significant way. However, another big component of workforce management is prevention.

Prevention

A good portion of the prevention guidance issued by the CDC impacts the cleanliness and disinfecting standards of the corrections sector. Even if corrections agencies haven’t identified traces of COVID-19 on the premises, rigorous and regular cleanings need to be observed. Not only can this empower a high-quality workforce but it helps visitors and inmates feel more secure within the facility.

Mandates on hygiene are also important within the corrections sector. Maintaining hygienic competence outside the facility prevents corrections workers from bringing external viral hazards with them to their work. This applies to officers and administrators alike. As a result, preventive and proactive testing is incredibly important.

General screenings are necessary for inmates and workers. Though many facilities don’t require testing for visitors, administrators are frequently requesting no-contact visits and mandating facial coverings within the grounds.

Management

During this pandemic, leadership development is more important than ever. Leadership development impacts administrators as well as future leaders within the Bureau of Prisons. As such, administrators are being asked to make difficult calls regarding quarantines, isolation periods, and contact tracing. It’s up to an administration’s proposal to determine how staff and inmates who test positive are managed.

Commonly, the CDC asks for stronger transportation protocols, defined quarantine periods for both the infected and their close contacts, and cleaning where the infected individuals have been. However, another major component that’s impacting the corrections sector is the management of uninfected persons. It’s natural for many inmates to fear the ongoing pandemic. Many are eligible for parole and some are soon to be released on probation. As such, it’s worrisome that future transmission could occur. Administrators need to open lines of communication with inmates to assuage their concerns.

Corrections officers and administrators, whether they work in federal prisons or are state employees, are navigating the general experience of COVID-19 as best they can. With robust workforce management and proactivity, it’s possible that corrections facilities may be better prepared to weather this current storm.