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Inmate work details rare as prisons adapt to coronavirus
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Inmates at the Hall County Recycling Center sort through various materials Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Gainesville. Almost all inmate details from the Hall County Correctional Institute are no longer going out except for the recycling/trash unit. - photo by Scott Rogers

If it were any other month, the Hall County Correctional Institution would send out more than 40 different inmate work details.

Now, there’s only one essential detail: recycling.

“Because there’s one thing that doesn’t stop, and that’s garbage,” Warden Walt Davis said.

Davis said the correctional institution is following the state Department of Corrections guidelines in response to the coronavirus, which means no visitation and no facility tours through April 10.

A Department of Corrections spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry from The Times on whether these suspensions would be extended.

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Inmates at the Hall County Recycling Center pile up cardboard to be recycled Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Gainesville. Almost all inmate details from the Hall County Correctional Institute are no longer going out except for the recycling/trash unit. - photo by Scott Rogers

“We’re trying to keep them entertained with movies and things like that,” Davis said.

Davis said no staff or inmates have exhibited symptoms of COVID-19, and none have had any positive tests.

Other safety protocols include more hand soap and sanitizer at all facilities, increased sanitation and cleaning, increased medical screening for anyone entering a facility and a waived $5 co-pay for offenders with COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms.

Across 16 other separate Georgia Department of Corrections’ facilities, there have been 35 confirmed cases among staff and 21 cases among offenders. There have also been four confirmed cases among offenders at two county/private facilities.

Two offenders at Lee State Prison in Leesburg died.

Davis said there hasn’t been any inmate movement between prisons for the past two weeks.

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Inmates at the Hall County Recycling Center sort through various materials Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Gainesville. Almost all inmate details from the Hall County Correctional Institute are no longer going out except for the recycling/trash unit. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Hall County facility runs a Re-entry Accountability Court Transition program, where non-violent offenders are given substance abuse treatment, vocational training and ultimately employment before their release.

“Since most of our guys work in various manufacturing positions, in fact, I think all of our guys are still working,” Davis said.

Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said while no essential services have been affected, other non-essential tasks were last completed the week of March 16 due to the lack of inmate crews.

“For example, the county right-of-ways are not currently being mowed, trash is not being picked up along the highways and no road patching projects are being completed. Other than that, we did have inmate crews doing some work on the new library, so we’re looking at ways to keep that project on track despite the loss of those crews,” Crumley wrote in an email.

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Inmates at the Hall County Recycling Center sweep glass Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in Gainesville. Almost all inmate details from the Hall County Correctional Institute are no longer going out except for the recycling/trash unit. - photo by Scott Rogers

Crumley said the county is looking at hiring a private contractor to complete the library work.

The Georgia Department of Corrections and the Georgia Correctional Industries began producing non-medical grade masks March 31 to be distributed at state facilities.

“One mask, which can be hand washed and reused, will be provided to each staff member and each offender, and initial shipments have been made to transitional centers and female facilities.  Ultimately, (Georgia Correctional Industries) will produce approximately 85,000 of these masks in an effort to ensure each staff member and each offender across all (Georgia Department of Corrections) facilities receives two masks,” according to a release from the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Davis said Tuesday, April 7, that the masks had not yet arrived.

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An inmate sweeps ups Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at the Hall County Recycling Center in Gainesville. Almost all inmate details from the Hall County Correctional Institute are no longer going out except for the recycling/trash unit. - photo by Scott Rogers
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