DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC) reported the first inmate with COVID-19 over the weekend at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (IMCC) in Coralville. They also have two staff members who tested positive for COVID-19.
Dr. Beth Skinner, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, pointed out the latest staff member who tested positive had not been to work since April 9, they believe no staff member or inmate was exposed. She added there are ten individuals under the supervision of the state’s community-based corrections facilities who tested positive for COVID-19. She noted that 103 tests were conducted. Skinner gave an update during Gov. Kim Reynolds’ press conference on Monday at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa.
DOC suspended visitations and volunteer activities during the state’s public health emergency. They have also suspended sending DOC work crews into the community and businesses. Skinner also noted that IMCC staff and inmates are provided personal protective equipment (PPE). She said that IMCC staff conducts random symptoms checks of inmates and checking temperatures twice a day. She added inmates displaying symptoms are placed in a special quarantine and are tested.
Skinner added that DOC is working to reduce the number of inmates in Iowa’s prisons. She said the prison count of 8,372 is the lowest it has been since June 30, 2017, and the state has released 811 inmates since March 1, but had 748 admissions.
“We are working closely with the Board of Parole, which has the authority to release those that would likely succeed in a community setting,” she said. “Together, our agencies are working to find a balance of good public safety and safety of the institutions for our staff and those incarcerated.”
Skinner noted there are 490 inmates presently approved for release and an additional 90 approved for a future release.
“Additionally, we are working closely with community-based corrections to safely parole those that have been approved back into the community. We are assessing the number of residential beds available for individuals coming out of the prison. Finally, we are working with the district directors with violators. Those who violate the conditions of their supervision are in a returned to prison, which makes up the majority of our admissions as of late. We are exercising options to keep these individuals in their communities as long as they do not pose an imminent public safety risk,” she added.
Skinner also noted they are working with county jails to stop admissions for revocations.
She noted the work Iowa Prison Industries (IPI) had done to manufacture PPE. Skinner said that IPI produced 62,378 masks that allowed them to issue three masks to every staff member and inmate. They have also made 6305 face shields, 7661 gowns, and 16,060 gallons of hand sanitizer. IPI produces 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer daily.
“Whenever we have asked them to produce more, whether they’re doing 500 gallons a day to 1000 gallons a day. They have answered, and they have produced, and they have found creative ways to accomplish the goals we set forth for them. This has been an effort of ipi staff and the individuals that are incarcerated, not only to protect staff and the individual incarcerated but other state agencies in Iowa communities,” Skinner said.