TDCJ responds to COVID-19

Posted 4/1/20

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has scrambled to update the public on constantly changing information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and how they are handling the crisis at their correctional facilities. This has included daily press releases as well as Facebook Live conversations with Executive Director Bryan Collier.

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TDCJ responds to COVID-19

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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has scrambled to update the public on constantly changing information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak and how they are handling the crisis at their correctional facilities. This has included daily press releases as well as Facebook Live conversations with Executive Director Bryan Collier.

A Monday press release announced that a 36-year-old offender in Huntsville’s Goree Unit has tested positive for the virus. The individual was taken to Huntsville Memorial Hospital on March 12 for an unrelated ailment and returned to the prison March 20.

A week later, the individual began feeling ill with COVID-19-type symptoms and was placed in medical isolation. He was tested for the virus on Saturday and it came back positive Monday. He remains in medical isolation and is in good condition, according to the press release.

TDCJ also announced two employees of the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) have tested positive for the virus. Other employees at the Huntsville Institutional Parole Office of the BPP are in self-quarantine. This office, however, is not a prison unit.

As of Monday, a total of seven staff, contractors or state employees connected to TDCJ have tested positive.

“The development of all of our COVID-19 protocols were based on the Center for Disease Control’s guidance, specifically for this disease and specifically for the uniqueness of the correctional setting,” said Jeremy Desel, Director of Communications at TDCJ. “We are doing everything we can to maintain safety for everyone, including the staff, employees and offenders within our system. That is why we have put into place all of the measures we have and will continue doing so.”

At the time of Friday’s Facebook Live with Collier, the Executive Director identified three confirmed cases within the organization, including an offender, staff worker and contract worker. As of Monday, that number has grown.

“We began more than two weeks ago, disinfecting at a higher degree than before, but are now accelerating that effort,” said Collier. “I think the message is, do not slow down one but on disinfecting.”

Collier was also asked via a question in the Facebook Live video’s comments about the possible early release of certain offenders in response to the virus. He acknowledged that such decisions are made by the Texas BPP.

TDCJ officials acknowledge that the situation is fluid and will continue updating the public daily.

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