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Activists digitally protest Wyatt Board meeting; more details on COVID-19 at prison revealed

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So far,” said Warden Daniel Martin, “we haven’t had any other cases that have been identified.


Wednesday’s meeting of the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation Board, which oversees the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island, was attended online by members of Never Again Action Rhode Island and the Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance (AMOR). The groups have been leading the effort to release undocumented immigrants held at the Wyatt under a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for over a year now.

Though public speaking was not permitted at the meeting, members of Never Again Action changed their profile pictures with screen shots of the Never Again logo. The effect was that well over a dozen of the attendees had one of the following logos on the page. This “digital protest” was the equivalent of carrying a protest sign into the room during a live meeting.

COVID-19

During the meeting, Warden Daniel Martin talked about the circumstances that led the prison to discover a positive case of COVID-19 in the prison, but the topic of the Rhode Island ACLU lawsuit seeking the release of three prisoners with severe health problems was not discussed.

According to Warden Martin, the inmate who tested positive was transferred from another facility to the Wyatt on April 2nd. At that time the inmate was screened by staff and showed no symptoms. The prisoner was assigned to the J1 Unite, where he stayed until he transferred to to H Unit for one day and from H Unit to B Unit for three days. He left B Unite on the 16th, and was symptomatic on the 18th.

The inmate was seen by medical on the 19th, was screened for COVID-19 on the 20th, and the test came back positive on the 21st. The lesson learned, said Warden Martin, is that, “There really should be a 16 day quarantine process.”


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The Rhode Island Department of Health, when it comes to potential spread, goes to the 16th, 17th and 18th, said Martin. 31 detainees in B Unit were tested on Wednesday, the remainder will be tested on Thursday. Testing will then continue into H Unit where the inmate who tested positive was held for one day. “The good news is that he was housed alone in H Unit,” said Martin.

Martin said that they are still working to determine if J Unit needs to be tested. “More than likely it will,” said Martin to the Board, “just as a precautionary measure.”

“We’re also working with the Department of Health to test staff. We’re hoping to get the process started tomorrow,” continued Martin.

The facility is on lockdown, and the prison has done a “full mitigation.” All the “main common areas” were sanitized. All the detainees in all the other units were screened. (Screening and testing are different. Screening means checking to see if people are symptomatic. Testing is a process that gets lab results.)

“So far,” said Martin, “we haven’t had any other cases that have been identified.”

The Lawsuit:

Tom Mooney at the Providence Journal today reported today that United States District Court Judge William Smith is “inclined” to grant the motion brought by the Rhode Island ACLU to release three prisoners with health issues that make them susceptible to serious implications and even death from COVID-19.