Tallahassee FL April 21 2020 Correctional officers at the federal women’s prison in Tallahassee have filed a complaint about the lack of masks and other personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
The officers filed what’s called an “Imminent Danger Report” with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that enforces workplace safety.
The April 14 complaint says actions by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons are proliferating the spread of the potentially deadly contagion.
One officer at the minimum-security prison, at the corner of Capital Circle and Conner Boulevard, has tested positive for the coronavirus and three others are quarantined. Also, one inmate is awaiting test results as of Friday evening.
Weeks of requests from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), a labor union, for a supply of protective equipment like masks and gloves boiled over when officers were supplied with what they call counterfeit N95 masks.
N95 is the standard set by OSHA for use in federal institutions, meaning it blocks at least 95 percent of very small particles, including viruses.
Ray Coleman, an FCI correctional officer, said he became suspicious of the mask he was given to wear to transport a prisoner because it lacked the label and design that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a legitimate mask should have.
“None of the labels, logos, the lot number, the inspection number … none of that stuff was on there,” said Coleman, who is also president of AFGE Local 1570, which represents 200 officers and staff at the prison.
“It makes no sense,” Coleman added. “We spent thousands of dollars ordering masks and nobody checked the legitimacy of them to make sure they were real or came from a credible vendor. From what I found out, they came from some Chinese company.”
The Bureau of Prisons said it has responded to several inquiries from OSHA concerning COVID-19.
“Working with OSHA and the union are two important opportunities the BOP has to evaluate efforts to keep staff safe and to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19,” said spokesman Justin Long.
Long explained the BOP maintains a national supply of approved equipment and that field sites may also purchase supplies locally if needed.