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Dispute over mask donation for inmates

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

Leaders of the nonprofit group Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware criticized the Delaware Department of Correction after the agency refused their donation of 4,600 face masks April 29.

“It is morally outrageous that the DOC would reject these masks for inmates in the state prison system,” Chris Coffey, CPBD campaign manager, said.

After Coffey offered the masks, the DOC wrote to him, saying the system had enough masks. The spokesperson encouraged CPBD to donate to other areas of the community in need.

“The DOC has reviewed our inventory of face masks and has determined that with our current inventory and existing procurement of face masks, including through Delaware Correctional Industries, we have sufficient supply chain to meet our needs,” a DOC spokesperson wrote.

Right now, more than 2,100 inmates have masks, said Jason Miller, DOC chief of communications and community relations. They include those who are in infirmaries, have compromised immune systems or work institutional jobs like food service. All inmates at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and Sussex Community Corrections Center, the two prisons with sick inmates, were given masks.

CPBD believes all inmates should be given masks. This comes after an inmate at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center died of COVID-19 April 30.

“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,” Coffey said.

Officials at the DOC are constantly considering whether to distribute more masks, Miller said. If they do decide to continue giving more out, they have enough to do that.

“If Mr. Coffey insists on delivering face masks to the DOC that it does not need instead of donating them to community-serving organizations and others who don't have sufficient face mask supplies, the DOC is willing to to accept that delivery and provide the face masks to inmates being released back into the community at the conclusion of their court-ordered sentence,” Miller said.

CPBD is now working with Pastor Blaine Hackett of St. John’s African Methodist Church to distribute the masks through the NAACP.

"We are thrilled to partner with Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware to get nearly 5,000 masks in the hands of those who desperately need them," Hackett said. "Our communities are suffering and vulnerable right now, but efforts like this give me hope that we can all come together with strengthened bonds between us and help those most in need."