Monday, October 3, 2022

A privilege: Some inmates at VPRJ continue to pick up trash outside during the coronavirus

In this WYDaily photo from March 2019, inmates from the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail can be seen almost weekly on roadsides and other public areas. The inmates mow lawns, pick up litter and rake leaves. (WYDaily file photo)
In this WYDaily photo from March 2019, inmates from the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail cleaning roadsides and other public areas. The inmates mow lawns, pick up litter and rake leaves. (WYDaily file photo)

Notice any orange jumpsuits lately picking up trash?

Some Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail inmates continue to pick up trash during the coronavirus.

While other programs at VPRJ have stopped during the coronavirus like volunteer programming where community members provide inmates with rehab services such as Alcoholics Anonymous and GED help, the jail’s workforce teams continue to perform community service hours in the form of picking up trash along roadways and other duties.

“VPRJ inmates serving on our workforce teams, and who are housed separate and apart from the general population, continue to perform community service duties, including road side garbage collection, without any contact with members of the public, and each have their health monitored to ensure their wellbeing during this pandemic,” Col. Roy C. Witham, superintendent of the jail, wrote in an email Thursday,

Inmates in the program are considered low risk offenders and working on these teams is considered a privilege since other inmates are limited to work duties within the jail’s facilities.

Typically, the VPRJ has two workforce teams with each team having up to six inmates and a corrections officer. However, it’s unclear how many inmates and staff members are involved in the program.

Beside trash collection, the jail’s workforce teams also clean public grounds, buildings, landfills and even help with emergency management for the Historic Triangle.

So what other precautions is the jail taking into account for its workforce teams?

Sara Mahayni, executive assistant to Witham, wrote in an email Monday the jail is taking temperatures of inmates in the workforce program and they are required to wear personal protective equipment such as face coverings.

VPRJ updated its coronavirus procedures such as mandating officers and staff to wear masks inside the jail’s secure perimeter and all inmates who leave their housing units to wear masks, too.

“VPRJ inmates serving on our workforce teams are housed separate and apart from the general inmate population and each has their health monitored,” she wrote when asked what precautions the jail was taking for inmates in the program.

It’s unclear what other precautions the jail is taking into account, what specific PPE equipment besides masks are the inmates required to wear and why the program is continuing.

As of Monday, there has been only one case of the coronavirus at the jail.

“We have had one staff member who has tested positive for coronavirus,” she wrote in an email. “That staff member has since recovered.”

In previous story, the former superintendent of the jail, Tony Pham, said in an interview with WYDaily the jail would give the inmates reasonable tasks and would not put them in danger.

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Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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