THE UNION COUNTY DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS IS TAKING ACTION TO PROTECT STAFF AND INMATES UNDER OUR CARE
The Division is committed to protecting the health and safety of those living and working in our facility.
We have been preparing our facility and our staff to safely and effectively manage this extraordinary challenge by working in conjunction with our medical service partner, CFG Health System, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Union County Health Department.
The Division has taken and will take the following steps to protect people in custody and our staff against COVID-19.
PCR testing for Staff and inmates began May of 2020 on a monthly basis.
PCR testing continues but is now conducted on a biweekly basis since October 2020.
Vaccinations for staff were made available as of January 2021, and began for inmates as of March 2021.
Communications & Engagement Plan
Understanding that there are many stakeholders with interest or questions about planning and preparation for COVID-19 in jails, the Department has taken several steps to provide accurate and up-to-date public health information to the public, inmates, and staff.
Publicly available materials – the Union County Department of Corrections has provided critical data related to the novel coronavirus inside the jail.
Materials within our facility – UCDOC has made every effort to keep our dedicated workforce engaged and aware of COVID-19 related changes daily at roll call and departmental directive bulletins. We have also posted informational posters in the facility and visitor’s areas. These materials include advice on essential health guidance and precautions including proper hand washing techniques and other infection avoidance and social distancing. These postings are in English and Spanish. UCDOC is also displaying rotating PSA images on TVs in the facility. The CDC best practices have been added to the orientation video.
Temperature Check Kiosks – added to the Intake/Release Area and front door
Keeping people under our care safe and informed – UCDOC is regularly communicating with the inmate population with guidance and relevant updates to protocols directly from facility staff and through inmate committee meetings.
Keeping staff safe and informed – In addition to basic precautions,UCDOC personnel have been repeatedly directed to:
- Stay home if they are feeling sick or meeting any of the high or medium risk categories as defined by the CDC
- Any personnel who shows up to work will have a wellness check by a medical professional prior to being allowed entrance to the facility. This screening includes a non-contact fever check. Anyone with a reading higher than 100.4 will be told to return home and advised to contact their primary care provider. Also, anyone who shows up with a cough, or shortness of breath will be sent home. In addition to taking basic precautions, staff have repeatedly been provided the most up to date health guidance via department directives on how to monitor systems and what to do when ill.
All staff must notify and report to the Custody Operations Division (COD) if they have a confirmed case of COVID-19 or confirmed exposure to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Cleaning & Prevention
General Prevention Guidance
Stay home Healthy or sick-need to stay home. You should only leave your home for essential tasks, such as work (if you cannot work from home), getting groceries and supplies, or essential medical care. Try to use delivery services when possible. When you must go out for essential tasks or solitary exercise, keep at least six feet of distance between yourself and others and wear a face covering.
Wash your hands With soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds every time or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid Touching Your Face Unless you recently washed your hands.
Cover your nose and mouth With a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Do not use your hands.
Do not shake hands Instead, wave.
If you are an older adult or have any of the chronic health conditions listed on this page, avoid all unnecessary gatherings and events
Avoid crowded spaces
Prevention & Sanitation
The Department is committed to robust sanitation protocols throughout the facility and transportation vehicles . Existing cleaning and sterilization policies to combat the potential spread of COVID-19 have been ramped up. The Department has confirmed that its current sanitation formula is effective against COVID-19 as per the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventative sanitation and cleaning protocols include:
- Cleaning and sanitizing all UCDOC housing units, day-rooms, and common spaces three (3) times per day
- Cleaning and sanitizing all contact surfaces and phones every few hours
- Cleaning and sanitizing shower areas three (3) times a day
- Cleaning and sanitizing all transport vehicles daily – Any transport van that is transporting a person who is symptomatic of a respiratory illness will be sanitized immediately after transporting that individual.
Hand soap and cleaning supplies – Supplies are offered free of charge to inmates under our care and replenished upon request, as needed. Supplies include disinfectant, general cleaner, and floor cleaner.
- Availability of soap: Every inmate under our care has access to their own bar of hand soap, and hand soap is allowed in an inmate’s individual cell. In addition, soap is placed in every bathroom at every sink. Most inmates in custody procure soap from the commissary, but bar soap is available for every person in custody if they need to replenish their supplies.
Additional Sanitation Training – UCDOC’s Environmental Health Unit is providing additional sanitation and sanitization training to all institutional aides and sanitation work details to enhance cleaning efforts and keep workers healthy.
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) – All staff, inmates, and personnel entering the facility are required to wear a facecloth/mask as recommended by the CDC. The Department has issued masks to all staff, inmates, and personnel. The distribution of new masks are giving out on a rotating basis, and any wear and tear of such PPE is reported immediately.
Regular Inspections and Timely Remediation – As a quality assurance measure, UCDOC has implemented a process for regularly inspecting housing areas to ensure cleaning and sanitation supplies are available as necessary. This includes:
- Daily inspections three times per tour by Housing Area Supervisors to ensure the availability of soap and cleaning supplies, and that sinks are in working order.
- Daily audits of the availability of these items in housing areas and high-trafficked areas (e.g., intakes) performed by UCDOC’s Command staff, who advise on any remediation needed.
- UCDOC is also continuing its practice of tracking any complaints submitted around any sanitation issues, including the availability of soap, cleaning supplies, working sinks, and instituting remediation measure as necessary
Screening & Health Care
Staff screening procedures – All staff are screened for COVID-19 like illness before entering the jail. This screening is not meant to serve as a diagnosis and does not confirm the presence of any disease. The screening process was developed in accordance with the latest federal, state, and city health guidance, and is as follows:
- Before entering the facility, the staff is required to answer a series of yes/no questions regarding symptoms and/or possible exposure related to COVID-19.
- The staff member then complies with temperature screening, taken via an infrared no-touch thermometer.
- If staff members answer “yes” to any of the screening questions, or if they have a fever over 100.4 degrees, they are immediately sent home.
- If they are UCDOC staff, they are directed to notify the Department’s Custody Division and advised to follow the recommended procedures for seeking medical attention.
- If they are not UCDOC staff, they are directed to notify an administrator of their relevant agency and advised to follow the recommended procedures for seeking medical attention.
- Staff tested every 2 weeks
- Inmates tested every 2 weeks
- Contact Tracing conducted by the County of Union
Staff access to COVID-19 testing – All UCDOC personnel, both uniformed and non-uniformed, will be provided access to COVID-19 testing at Kean University testing site. Testing will be explicitly provided to staff that are symptomatic and have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are exhibiting symptoms of this disease. Staff is encouraged to register with the Kean University testing site.
Medical screening for inmates in custody – Consistent with federal, state, and local guidelines, CFG Health System screens inmates upon admission to the Union County Jail, to identify health issues and to recognize, isolate, and monitor as appropriate, individuals who may be at high risk of COVID-19.
Symptom Monitoring – UCDOC staff has been instructed to refer any inmate in custody who is exhibiting COVID-19 like symptoms to CFG , our medical service provider for evaluation. In addition to its ongoing training for uniformed personnel on infectious and communicable disease precautions, UCDOC staff has also received additional training and guidance on how to spot COVID-19 symptoms and make referrals to CFG as appropriate.
Health care for inmates – Inmates receive care and treatment from (CFG). As appropriate, inmates may also receive care at acute care facilities within the Hospital Systems adjacent to the Union County Jail, which is among the best equipped in the nation to provide the appropriate, safe care to those patients. If clinically indicated, inmates are placed in special housing units for a variety of reasons including the possibility of COVID-19 infection while being monitored several times daily by medical personnel.
What is COVID-19?
What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from mild diseases, such as a cold, to more severe illnesses, such as pneumonia. Recently, a new coronavirus was detected that had not been previously seen in humans. The disease, called COVID-19, can be spread from person to person. There are no vaccines or specific treatments available for COVID-19. However, medicine and vaccine research is underway. Due to widespread community transmission, everyone is advised to closely monitor their health, practice social distancing, and stay at home as much as possible.
Symptoms of COVID-19 commonly include fever, cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath. Most people with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms and fully recover without complications. Less commonly, COVID-19 may lead to pneumonia, hospitalization, or death.
People who are at most risk for severe illness are older adults or those who have chronic health conditions, such as:
- Lung disease
- Heart disease
- A weakened immune system
In line with CDC guidance, the UCDOC is taking several precautions to promote social distancing and reduce the risk of the potential spread of the coronavirus in our facility.
Measures to promote social distancing within our facility – UCDOC is rolling out enhanced social distancing guidance to its facility, which will encourage limits to the number of people under our care who have access to dayrooms, bathrooms, and shower areas at any given time.
Increasing awareness – To increase awareness of these efforts, the Department is putting up posters that describe the enhanced social distancing guidelines across all facilities. Officers have also been provided additional information on these measures so that they may communicate directly with inmates in custody about their public health purpose.
Reduction in the capacity of housing units – Most housing units are currently operating at a capacity below 50%, affording people in custody to ensure social distancing precautions.
Telework and staggered schedules – UCDOC has implemented telework and staggered schedules from non-uniform employees with the ability to follow these measures, in keeping with the Governor’s order for all non-essential employees.
Keeping in Contact
Alterations to Services & Protocols to Promote Social Distancing
In line with the Union County Health Department and CDC guidance, the Department is taking a number of precautions to promote social distancing and reduce the risk of the potential spread of the coronavirus in our facility. In order to promote appropriate social distancing, the following services and protocols have been suspended or altered.
Court Appearances – Most in-person court appearances have been suspended, per order of the New Jersey Supreme Court Administration.
Contact Visits – Have been suspended as of March 10, 2020.
State Transfers – All transfers to state prison have been suspended.
In-Person Programming – All in-person programming, as well as events facilitated by contracted providers and volunteer groups, have been suspended. Program staff and providers are delivering programming and services to inmates in custody by alternative means where possible. The Department recognizes that it is imperative that inmates in custody receive access to critical services and information and has implemented the following measures to ensure the continuation of access to services.
Increased support for connections to loved ones – In an effort to further increase connections between inmates in custody and their loved ones, the Department is offering three free stamps, three free envelopes, or three pre-stamped envelopes per week to inmates in custody for correspondence purposes. Per existing policy, UCDOC continues to offer phone calls for inmates free of charge.
Court appearances and access to counsel – UCDOC is utilizing existing infrastructure to ensure video appearances are available for those in our custody. UCDOC continues to utilize existing infrastructure to ensure attorneys have teleconferences access to their clients. Per existing policy, phone calls to attorneys are offered free of charge, without limits.
Programming and services – Programs staff are providing self-study, self-directed material to interested inmates. UCDOC continues to work with program providers to provide remote programming and services to inmates in custody where possible.
Free Inmate Video Visits conducted
1 free phone call per week for inmates
2 free stamped envelopes proved for all inmates