COVID Outbreak at Prison Seems Under Control

By Rick Hiduk

(Exclusive to readers)

After revealing last month that a male inmate at the Bradford County Correctional Facility (BCCF) who had not been outside the jail had tested positive for COVID-19, warden Don Stewart announced on Jan. 14 that more than two dozen prisoners and staff had since tested positive.

Mass testing was conducted on Christmas Eve after two inmates who were to be transported to a state correctional facility tested positive. To date, the prison has only been conducting spot testing, but those being moved to other jails are routinely tested.

Results came back indicating that 23 inmates and four employees had been exposed to the coronavirus. “Some of them had minor symptoms but, Thankfully, nobody required outside medical care,” Stewart remarked.

Two units at the prison – one male and one female – are still in quarantine and will remain so for another week. When asked about additional follow-up, Stewart responded, “We did contact tracing and there were a couple of positives, but I don’t think there’s any way that we can definitively determine that.”

All staff members are now wearing N95 masks, and inmates who tested negative have been given enhanced cloth masks. Those who tested positive got an N95 mask, he related, and inmate workers are also wearing N95 masks.

District attorney Chad Salsman asked for an update on a moratorium imposed by the state on accepting any prisoners from BCCF, as he was concerned about overcrowding if inmates could not be moved. Warden Stewart indicated that the moratorium had been lifted and inmates can be moved again. 

A rash of new charges have been filed against inmates over the past month, mostly due to fights between prisoners. One male inmate assaulted staff members on numerous occasions and has been moved on to SCI Torrance with a mental health commitment. A female inmate brought meth into the prison and allegedly shared it with other prisoners. A male inmate broke out his cell window.

Current prison population at Burlington stands at 112 men and 31 women and only one inmate is boarded at another facility.

Corrections officer Bennett resigned to take a job with the Arlington Police Department, and officer Smith was terminated from employment during his probationary period. During the regular commissioners meeting held prior to Thursday’s Prison Board meeting, the commissioners approved the hiring of Ashley Dustin as a part-time corrections officer. There are still two openings at the prison.

A reorganization of the Prison Board did not change the leadership, with sheriff C.J. Walters

and commissioner Daryl Miller retaining their seats as chairman and vice chairman, respectively.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *