On June 11, the DOC leadership team participated in a phone call with the International Corrections and Prisons Association on COVID recovery measures and resuming services.
The call was led by Doug Dretke, executive director of Sam Houston State University's Correctional Management Institution of Texas. In addition to the DOC, individuals from Australia, Moldova, Gambia, Kosovo, Canada, Bermuda, Turkey, Colombia participated.
DOC Sec. John Wetzel shared about the overall efforts by the PA DOC to mitigate COVID while supporting the population and the staff. He explained providing support in a very myopic way making this effort a focus of the agency.
Director Jeremy Tucker, Department of Justice from Australia, shared their strategy, which mirrored the efforts of our agency.
The two-edged sword is to balance the community openness and staff exposure while restricting the agency protocols to ensure continued mitigation of the COVID spread within the closed congregate environment.
Other participants in the call shared their efforts to mitigate COVID, including challenges such as remote visits, expanded inmate/family communications, testing strategies, isolation/quarantine protocols, mental health services provided to inmates, adaptation of facilities, social distancing and segregating yards.
Also discussed was the development of a website that allows jurisdictions to input data into the model to determine disease spread potential. PA DOC's Dr. Bret Bucklen was crucial in developing the model, which can help a system to return to a new normal while taking virus introduction points and staff exposure into consideration. The software models the impact of an uncontrolled spread, including isolation spreads, impact on tertiary system, possible deaths and even reduction of staff.
Others shared their experiences to mitigate COVID-19 within their systems; Bermuda, for example, shared that it has no cases inside of its facilities.
All agencies worked to ensure continued family communication throughout the mitigation process.
"We very much enjoyed Secretary Wetzel joining us yesterday for the information exchange," said Dretke.