A majority of the Silverdale Detention Center staff were seen either without a mask or just under their chins, and most of the inmates had no masks, the court testified on Friday from two lawyers who recently visited their clients.
The hearing came after attorney Chad Wilson filed a motion to change his client Tommie Lyons’ one year sentence after learning that Lyons had contracted COVID-19 in Hamilton County Jail and his prescribed daily medication and weekly blood tests Had not received a potentially fatal pre-existing illness, the Silverdale Health Services administrator admitted, despite the administrator blaming Lyon and a paperwork oversight.
During Friday’s hearing, Attorney Hilary Hodgkins said she visited one of her clients in Silverdale on December 10th. Some administrative staff wore masks that day, she said. But she only saw one security guard wearing a mask.
“When I visited my client, I had to break up [unit]and that’s deep in Silverdale – I think we had to hum through five different doors, “she said.” I could see inmates looking at me from the windows, and none of them were wearing masks. Not only did the guard who accompanied me weren’t wearing a mask, they also ate a pop cake as we walked through the facility … My client was – I brought a mask for him and the guard put that on him before they brought it out. “
Another attorney, Brandy Spurgin-Floyd, said the last time she visited a client in Silverdale was on Nov. 30.
“The person who worked at the front desk was wearing their mask as far as I can remember,” she said. But when she was inside and saw other people, including staff, enter the facility, “I noticed that probably more than half of them were not wearing a mask other than that they were around their ears and chin.”
Silverdale’s health care administrator Freida Thompson also testified that she saw workers who were not wearing masks.
“It’s often in her pocket or around her chin,” she said.
CoreCivic, the privately owned company that operates the Silverdale facility, said it “disagrees”[s] with these claims. “
“All employees and those we care for are given face masks,” said Amanda Gilchrist, spokeswoman for CoreCivic, in a statement emailed. “Employees must wear masks at all times unless they are eating or drinking. People in our care must wear masks outside their assigned living areas (unless they are eating or drinking).”
Any employee who does not meet the requirements “is subject to disciplinary action,” she said.
Gilchrist did not answer questions about the disciplinary measures.
When Wilson asked Thompson how the requirement is being enforced among staff, she said, “I’ll get a mask and give it to them, or I’ll ask them why they don’t have one.”
Thompson said inmates are given a paper mask upon admission and “at any time, inmates can ask for a different mask. We have tons of masks here.”
In Lyon’s case, Thompson said he didn’t tell the nurse he was diagnosed with COVID-19 before arriving in Silverdale. It is not clear at what point Lyons became aware of his positive test.
Regarding his medication, Thompson initially informed Criminal Court Judge Don Poole that Lyon would receive his medication twice a day. But he didn’t get it on a few days “because he refused to come on the pill call,” Thompson said.
“He just has to get up from his bed – or wherever he is in his capsule – [and] either go to the door or approach the door, “she said.” Often times, the nurses will bring the pill trolley to the door of the residential unit. “
Wilson then asked if inmates are required to sign records if they refuse to take medication.
“Yeah, but sometimes when they don’t come on the pill call we take that as a refusal,” she said.
“It’s an assumption, not a denial, that has been approved and signed by him,” remarked Wilson. “Did he sign any of them?”
“Not that I have,” replied Thompson.
Regarding Lyons’ doctor-ordered weekly blood test, Thompson initially shared with Poole that Lyons had not drawn any blood in the last month, but did so on Thursday after allegedly initially refusing to do so.
Weekly tests hadn’t been ordered when he arrived, she told Poole. “If so, we weren’t aware of it.”
However, with further questions, Thompson revealed that the doctor first ordered the weekly tests “probably a few weeks ago”.
“So it’s your testimony that Silverdale knew he should have it drawn weekly, right? And that they didn’t do it weekly. You waited until yesterday?” Asked Wilson.
“Yes,” replied Thompson.
With that, Wilson was telling Poole that he believed the conditions at Silverdale were a violation of his client’s and other inmates’ constitutional rights to cruel and unusual punishment.
“We have testimony from the medical director. We have testimony from attorneys who show that the simple, common thing that can at least be enforced on the staff is that they wear a mask whenever possible to avoid exposure to reduce [of COVID-19] for themselves, their family, the community, but most of all for the inmates, “he argued.
Poole said it would be difficult to decide the issues regarding the COVID-19 protocols and he was “not convinced that at least he is not getting the … medication as needed”.
“I was concerned then. I am concerned now. And I will be concerned until a final decision is made and he has this treatment. I want him to be treated for this pre-existing disease,” said Poole.
“But [Thompson] suggests things will change in the next few weeks, “he added, citing plans for the county to take over the administration of Silverdale and close the downtown prison and combine the two facilities by the end of the year .
An update hearing will take place on January 8th.
Contact Rosana Hughes at 423-757-6327, [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.