Branchville focuses on flattening the curve


BRANCHVILLE — Branchville Correctional Facility offenders in a purposeful-living program have switched from quilting to making face masks as the medium-security prison in Perry County focuses on flattening the curve.

Warden Kathy Alvey says donations of material, elastic, hair ties and sewing machines are being used to make masks for each offender housed at Branchville as well as all employees.

Alvey said the donations have come from community members, religious groups and staff. The masks are to be worn at all times by staff and offenders.

The 2,000 masks produced thus far are one way the facility is working to flatten the curve. Medical services are screening staff and offenders daily to identify anyone with a fever.

Staff members are having their temperature taken every day prior to entering the facility and anyone who has a fever of 100 degrees or higher is sent home, according to Alvey. Those sent home cannot return to work until they meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirements to return to work.

Offenders found to have a fever of 100 degrees are quarantined for up to 14 days for monitoring. Positive cases are isolated in a different area, pending recovery from the virus. The prison says each unit is being staffed by the same custody officers to reduce exposure risk.

Branchville houses 1,400 offenders and employs more than 300 correctional and contractual staff.

Alvey says the prison has temporarily canceled face-to-face visits and all volunteer programs. Offenders and staff have been tapped to clean continuously, the warden said, and sanitizer has been deployed in all areas for offenders and staff.

The warden said the prison’s administration is continuously working to find unique ways to engage the offenders. Those efforts include:

• Volunteers sending bible lessons to offenders for independent faith study.

• Volunteer mentors writing to their mentees to help them cope with the stress of this time.

• Religious services offered via tablets and videos.

• Continued classwork offered by education staff.

• Pre-release work to help soon-to-be-released offenders find meaningful work. Efforts include Skype and phone interviews and virtual job fairs.

• Continued operations of a pallet shop, sawmill and a garden where the produce is donated to food banks, senior communities and child-care facilities.

• Giving offenders two, free phone calls and one video visit each week to stay in touch with family.

“Staff have shown amazing bravery and dedication throughout this process,” Alvey said. “We are doing everything within our power to keep this virus to the lowest numbers possible. We are in this together and we will get through this.

“I am proud of how well our staff are handling this pandemic as well as the offenders.”

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