WILMINGTON, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, following the deaths of Jim Hunter, Richard Roth and Peter Schellinger, all inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Delaware, Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware slammed the State Department of Correction (DOC) for failing to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) – including facemasks – to inmates, and called on the DOC to accept the CPBD’s offer of 4,600 face masks to distribute to all 4,200 inmates in the State prison system.
The deaths come just two weeks after CPBD’s offer of 4,600 facemasks for inmates the facility was first accepted, then rejected by the State amid reports the DOC would not release prisoners or supply the needed PPE to protect them from COVID-19, just hours after they had initially accepted it per official emails. The rejection came 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.
Said Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware Campaign Manager Chris Coffey, “The death of these three men is on the hands of the DOC. From the beginning of this crisis they refused to take action in protecting these inmates, violating their rights and putting them at high risk of exposure.
“After we secured and distributed 10,000 masks last month to communities in need in Delaware, multiple local pastors and State Senator Colin Bonini had reached out to us to see if we could help secure masks for the DOC. Answering their call, we did, and we offered the masks to DOC who said yes immediately. Just hours later, they reversed course, and now, multiple inmates have lost their lives because of their willful and unconscionable negligence.
“The DOC should be making every effort possible to make up for its deadly early delays in protecting inmates, but instead they are doubling down on their callous disregard for inmates’ health and wellbeing rejecting lifesaving PPE. If the DOC continues withholding lifesaving PPE from the prisoners under its care, then the state of Delaware will be directly complicit in the deaths of the inmates they are now going out of their way not to protect, many of whom are in high-risk categories for the virus.
“We still have the masks and would be more than eager to give them to DOC. We’ll be waiting for the call.”
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 last week.
The DOC rejected the PPE despite reports that the agency has still failed to provide face masks to all 4,200 inmates in its facilities even with updated Centers for Disease Control guidelines that recommend wearing face coverings to slow the spread of the virus. With prisons across the country emerging as vectors for transmission of the deadly coronavirus, civil rights organizations including the ACLU and the NAACP have urged state officials to take steps like providing masks to mitigate the risk of coronavirus in correctional facilities. Delaware’s prisons are disproportionately filled with people of color, and racial breakdowns of the state’s coronavirus cases show that Black and Hispanic Delawareans are being infected with the coronavirus at a drastically higher rate than white residents.
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. For more information on Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware or to join the cause, visit DelawareForBusiness.org.