“I think it is important to note that it is impossible for any facility to meet the department of public health standards governing social distance. This means facilities must work at lowering their incarcerated populations immediately.” – Larissa Paolantonio, Community Reentry for Women (CREW) instructor and case manager
Incarcerated individuals are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the numbers of people being confined in correctional facilities. April began with news that a Massachusetts prisoner has died from the Coronavirus, followed by reports of more deaths as the month progressed. As of April 28th, WBUR reported that “the coronavirus has infected nearly 15,000 inmates and corrections workers nationally and has killed more than 130.” Massachusetts jails and prisons have been particularly affected. While a few hundred prisoners have been released in Massachusetts in an attempt to save lives, many hundreds more remain behind bars. In response to the spread of the virus, Massachusetts correctional facilities have imposed lockdowns. At this time the Suffolk County House of Correction is not admitting outside contractors and is strictly limiting movement of inmates. Project Place staff are typically teaching our Work Ready program within the Suffolk County House of Correction five days a week. These visits were suspended in early March, when our agency closed our building. While we cannot provide programming within the House of Correction at the moment, we are still able to support individuals who are being released and are in need of services.
Project Place’s Reentry Team continue to outreach to community stakeholders, informing them of the reentry services, online training and support services that Project Place is continuing to provide during COVID-19. Reentry specific curriculum content was added from our Community Reentry for Women (CREW) and Industry Training Reentry Program (ITRP) to our Work Ready class to provide additional support for navigating community reintegration during this time. ITRP instructor, Alex, has been engaged as a teaching assistant for those enrolled who qualify for reentry services. Alex says, “It has helped us tremendously as an organization to become more interconnected departmentally. I believe that is will have a successful impact on our clients when we return to business as normal.”
“We are currently working on an online curriculum that can be deliverable inside facilities. Due to facility security procedures, we first need to understand what we are allowed to utilize in terms or technology, and then move to create a curriculum on said platform,” shares Larissa.
“For incarcerated individuals, who have been on a ‘lockdown status’ since the pandemic began, Project Place’s adapted service delivery model is being considered by correctional facilities as alternative method to provide them with access to programming. The Reentry Team continues to strive to ensure that recent released individuals obtain the necessary support and connections to resources,” says Beth Carter, Director of Reentry.