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COVID-19 outbreak at Scott County Jail drawing extra attention to worker shortage

"The other operations of the jail are already short staff. It's getting to the point where its very, very concerning," Scott County Sheriff Tim Lane said.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — After evading a COVID-19 outbreak for a year and a half, the Scott County Jail is finally feeling the full effects of the virus. According to the jail, 25 inmates and 5 correctional officers tested positive for the virus. 

It’s down to 12 inmates still quarantining, but all five correctional officers are still out. Scott County Sheriff Tim Lane said the problem became clear when an inmate that had been in the jail for several of months tested positive.

“We knew the virus had made it past our preventative measures and into general population, and we had a problem at that point,” Lane said.

The outbreak has caused correctional officers to put in extra work. Lane estimates correctional officers put in a collective 36 hours of overtime everyday.

“Overtime starts to look like 16 hour shifts, and they turn into multiple 16-hour shifts per week per correctional officers,” Lane said. “And that is very, very draining on your staff.”

Staff have been filling in for roles like preparing meals. It’s something inmates typically do, but since one of the inmates who tested positive worked in the kitchen, the whole staff is quarantining.

“It keeps our food production and service able to provide about 1,000 meals a day,” Lane said.

To help lessen the burden on staff, the jail made the decision to cater inmate meals instead of having correctional officers prepare them, but it comes at a price.

“It’s about $1 to a $1.20 per meal per inmate in the Scott County Jail with the inmates making the meal, but at this point, we’re paying $11 dollars a meal to have them brought in,” Lane said.

Even so, some staff members are still needed to divvy those meals out. It lessens staff in other areas of the jail, causing major concern for Lane.

"As things are turning out now it’s coming down to the correctional officers to make sure every single thing in the Scott County Jail is taking place at this given time, and that has been very burdensome,” Lane said.

Another thing Lane is hoping to do is increase medical staff in the jail. Another modification correctional officers are working with now is the responsibility of sometimes passing out medication to inmates as well.

Lane said, however, that depends entirely on being able to hire more employees to the Scott County Health Department that can come into the jail.

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