New audit highlights multiple issues and challenges the DOC faced in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) – An audit released today highlights how the Department of Public Safety and Corrections handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

The audit points out five problem areas the DOC had during the pandemic while being responsible for over 28,000 adults in its custody as of June 2020.

This includes a 21.7% increase of staff hours on leave, the small number of prisoners furloughed, a drop in education completion, and the lack of data on COVID testing inside of local facilities. Today we are looking at one topic, and that is the department following CDC guidelines.

This audit says that the Department Of Corrections (DOC) did comply with CDC guidelines during the pandemic including, testing, medical isolation, and more. But according to stakeholders, protocols may not have been uniformly implemented at all prison facilities

A big concern for stakeholders is medical isolation. This is when a prisoner tests positive for COVID-19, and they are isolated for 24 hours until their fever was gone.

“There was no standard, like, this is what medical isolation should look like in your facility that we are aware of,” said Vanessa Spinazola, Executive Director for Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana.

Because of pandemic restrictions, auditors could not physically go into the facilities so they met with stakeholders and read emails from prisoners to get a better picture of what was going on inside.

“So when we met with stakeholders, they had heard from prisoners, we reviewed emails from some prisoners that one of the stakeholder’s groups had collected that some of these protocols may not have been implemented consistency,” said Kristen Jacobs, Senior Performecan Auditor.

After gathering all of the information, recommendations were made for the future.

“We made the recommendation that they create a process where they could maybe review video or do additional procedures to make sure that it looked like some of these protocols were implemented,” said Jacobs.

But the audit says that the DOC disagrees with this recommendation.

“They did state that going forward they will include COVID 19 guidelines and they are also evaluating the feasibility of using technology kind of as a means of review in the future,” said Krista Baker-Hernandez.

The auditor’s report is a suggestion on how to better address these issues, but with no real enforcement.
BRProud reached out to the DOC to find out what they’ll do with the auditor’s recommendations, but they did not comment and referred us to their written response in the report.

Click here for the full audit.

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