On Thursday Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware (CPBD) issued a statement regarding the Delaware State Department of Correction (DOC) refusal to accept personal protective equipment the group wanted to donate to staff and inmates.
The group said after distributing 10,000 masks to frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable populations throughout Delaware, CPBD secured an additional 4,600 face masks, which the group immediately offered to the DOC in the wake of the first inmate death from the virus at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center earlier this week.
After initially accepting CPBD’s offer, the DOC reversed its decision and rejected the masks just four hours later after agency officials informed the office of DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis, a political appointee of Governor John Carney, who has been criticized by CPBD for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
The press release by Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware prompted the Department of Correction to respond Thursday.
“The DOC has reviewed our inventory of face masks and has determined that with our current inventory and existing procurement of face masks, including through Delaware Correctional Industries, we have sufficient supply chain to meet our needs. We recognize that there remains a need in the community for these items and we want to encourage you to donate the masks at your disposal to organizations that are experiencing short supply”, DOC Spokesman Jason Miller said in response to the offer.
Miller said face masks are being worn in prison, work release, and violation of probation facilities by all Correctional Officers and contract healthcare workers as an added layer of protection for inmates and staff, on top of DOC’s rigorous screening and cleaning measures. Face masks have been provided by the DOC to more than 2,100 inmates who are in infirmaries, those with compromised immune systems, and certain inmates with institutional jobs, including food service workers and all inmates at the only two facilities where there are inmate COVID cases – James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and Sussex Community Corrections Center. DOC leaders have repeatedly indicated that they are continuing to consider whether to issue face masks to other inmates as needed, and they have demonstrated that by expanding the number of inmates who have received face masks. If and when DOC leaders and medical professionals deem it necessary to further distribute face masks to inmates, DOC will have the capacity to do so. DOC is not and will not be accepting donations from the public for face masks. For DOC, issuing face masks is not a matter of supply.
Miller went on to say that if CPBD insists on delivering face masks to the DOC that it does not need instead of donating them to community-serving organizations and others who don’t have sufficient face mask supplies, the DOC is willing to accept that delivery and provide the face masks to inmates being released back into the community at the conclusion of their court-ordered sentence. We also will work to identify community-serving organizations that can use additional face masks.
Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware is a group made up of more than 5,000 members including employees of the global translation services company TransPerfect, as well as concerned Delaware residents, business executives and others. They formed in April of 2016 to focus on raising awareness with Delaware residents, elected officials, and other stakeholders about the issue. While their primary goal of saving the company has been accomplished, they continue their efforts to fight for more transparency in the Delaware Chancery Court.