The masks were secured and offered by the grassroots advocacy organization, Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, which is condemning Governor Carney and the DOC’s decision.
Following weeks of refusal by the Delaware State Department of Correction (DOC) to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) – including facemasks – to inmates today, Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware (CPBD) denounced the state for rejecting their offer of 4,600 masks for free.
The DOC decision comes despite substantial evidence of the spread of Covid-19 in the state’s prison system.
After distributing 10,000 masks to frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable populations throughout Delaware, CPBD secured an additional 4,600 face masks, which the group immediately offered to the DOC in the wake of the first inmate death from the virus at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center earlier this week.
After initially accepting CPBD’s offer, the DOC reversed its decision and rejected the masks just four hours later after agency officials informed the office of DOC Commissioner Claire DeMatteis, a political appointee of Governor John Carney, who has been criticized by CPBD for his handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
The DOC’s rejection of the PPE comes as the agency has still failed to provide face masks to all 4,200 inmates in its facilities despite updated Centers for Disease Control guidelines that recommend wearing face coverings to slow the spread of the virus. With prisons across the country emerging as vectors for transmission of the deadly coronavirus, civil rights organizations including the ACLU and the NAACP have urged state officials to take steps like providing masks to mitigate the risk of coronavirus in correctional facilities. Delaware’s prisons are disproportionately filled with people of color, and racial breakdowns of the state’s coronavirus cases show that Black and Hispanic Delawareans are being infected with the coronavirus at a drastically higher rate than white residents.
Said Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware Campaign Manager Chris Coffey, “It is morally outrageous that the DOC would reject these masks for inmates in the state prison system. Their refusal to accept outside assistance is even more reprehensible than the crucial weeks the agency wasted before even beginning to address the spread of Covid-19 in its facilities. The DOC should be making every effort possible to make up for its deadly early delays in protecting inmates, but instead, they are doubling down on their callous disregard for inmates’ health and wellbeing rejecting lifesaving PPE.
After Citizens secured and distributed 10,000 masks last week to communities in need in Delaware, multiple local pastors and State Senator Colin Bonini had reached out to us to see if we could help secure masks for the DOC. Answering their call, we did, and we offered the masks to DOC who said yes immediately. Just hours later, they reversed course.
“If the DOC continues withholding lifesaving PPE from the prisoners under its care, then the state of Delaware will be directly complicit in the deaths of the inmates they are now going out of their way not to protect.”
“People of color make up over 60% of Delaware’s prison population but less than 40% of our residents. We know that black and brown folks have been the victims of historic, systemic injustices at the hands of our criminal justice system, but the coronavirus crisis has put those that are incarcerated at a different level of vulnerability. I am joining the calls from many Pastors across the State for the DOC to provide the care that they would want to receive and protect our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers housed in their correctional care.”Pastor Dale Dennis II of Hoyt Memorial CME Church in Wilmington
Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware is a group made up of more than 5,000 members including employees of the global translation services company TransPerfect, as well as concerned Delaware residents, business executives and others. They formed in April of 2016 to focus on raising awareness with Delaware residents, elected officials, and other stakeholders about the issue. While their primary goal of saving the company has been accomplished, they continue their efforts to fight for more transparency in the Delaware Chancery Court.
For more information on Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware or to join the cause, visit DelawareForBusiness.org.