PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - Prince William County Manassas Adult Detention Center is dealing with another COVID-19 outbreak that has left dozens ill.
As of Tuesday, Superintendent Col. Pete Meletis says 22 inmates and nine staff members have tested positive for coronavirus.
But some criminal defense attorneys, including Steve Duckett, of Price Benowitz, LLP – who represents several of the inmates awaiting trial – says the way these people are being treated needs to be called into question.
"Quarantine in jail is solitary confinement, which essentially means you're in a room by yourself 23 hours a day, you're gonna get maximum two showers a week and that's only if the guards have the time to show you to and from the showers because that's what has to happen when you're in quarantine. This kind of treatment of prisoners is inhumane punishment, it takes a significant mental health toll. And under the U.S. constitution these people, majority of them are presumed innocent of the crimes they're committing," said Duckett.
Since the outbreak, the detention center has stopped all inmate programs, all inmates are quarantined for 14 days with daily medical staff checks. Also, inmates are given masks and educated about proper hygiene, and staff who have been exposed are quarantining at home. The jail superintendent says all staff do temperature checks as they enter the detention center
"We take a lot of precautions here, we think we’ve got a pretty good system. It’s very difficult to figure out where it’s coming from; however jails are targets for COVID-19 due to inmate congregate living settings," said Meletis.
Yet, despite the jail's efforts, Duckett says more needs to be done.
"If you're charged with a theft-related crime, drug-related crime that's not associated with violence, those people need to be out, cause at this point it's costing a real toll that they don't deserve to pay," said Duckett.
Ultimately, it's up to the courts to decide whether or not to allow the release of an inmate – and since the start of the pandemic, Meletis says more than 100 inmates have been released early. He adds that 151 inmates have been vaccinated and a large number have refused vaccination. He's also assigned extra staff to assist with showers for inmates who are quarantined.
By this Friday, the superintendent says all but 22 inmates and those who test positive between now and then will be released from quarantine.