WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Inmates in El Paso county are tasked to move remains of COVID-19 victims as infections spike in Texas.
- While relying on prisoners to perform specific jobs is typical across the nation, there are rising concerns over health and safety risks involved in handling coronavirus fatalities’ corpses.
- The County Sheriff’s Office described the task as safe for low-level offenders, noting that they are given proper protection and equipment to do the job.
As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, El Paso County in Texas employed its prison inmates for $2 an hour to transfer the infected victims’ remains. While prison labor is not something new across the country, the dependence on inmates to do the job of moving the bodies of coronavirus victims has raised concerns over the work ethics in handling such a sensitive task.
El Paso County Sheriff’s Office public affairs director, Chris Acosta, said the county has nine convicts assigned to move the corpse of COVID-19 fatalities. She explained that the inmates are low-risk offenders, adding that the hospital or morgue has given them full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Acosta also said the job is entirely voluntary, noting that they’re glad the inmates provided augmented work volunteering to help a community that needs such at these times.
There are around 34,000 positive COVID-19 cases, with no less than 1,100 people admitted in medical facilities at El Paso County, as reported by its local health department. The county also listed 769 coronavirus related casualties since the outbreak started in March.
While prisons employing inmates to perform specific jobs for little or no wage is a common practice, there are health risk concerns involved in depending on them amidst the spike of coronavirus cases in Texas.
Health policy think-tank, epidemiologist and Federation of American Scientists senior associate Eric Feigl-Ding posted on Twitter that he’s concerned with El Paso as the inmates have been performing the sensitive task since Monday, and what followed was an increase in the number of mobile morgues by 10.
In previous years, inmates have protested over low wages and work circumstances. And even the 13th Amendment banned slavery in 1865, criminally convicted individual was given exception. Because of the exclusion, convicts are vulnerable to free labor. In effect, Texas and four more other states implement non-payments for regular penitentiary jobs.
Source: CBS News