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Adams County Correctional Center still taking in ICE detainees

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Correctional Center is continuing to operate through the COVID-19 pandemic and is taking in inmates from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which contracts with the Core Civic-owned facility located on U.S. 84 in Adams County, officials said.

ICE is continuing to transport ICE detainees as necessary, including bringing ICE detainees by bus to the Adams County Correctional Center but ICE is not making any mass arrests during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Bryan Cox, ICE spokesperson.

Rather, ICE is only bringing people into custody who were in jail/prison and are being picked up by ICE upon their release from criminal custody, Cox said.

“All these persons are being screened upon entry into ICE custody and the agency is using necessary PPE as appropriate,” Cox said.

Shawn Gillis, warden of the Adams County Correctional Center, said the intake and outtake is going well at the facility.

“We are taking precautions and utilizing protective equipment and doing the things you need to do,” Gillis said. “You always take precautions from the beginning, but we’re utilizing the PPE (personal protective equipment) and things like that when we are processing. We’re doing the same things for the most part when we encounter people just like they’re doing outside.”

Gillis said he believes his staff feels confident about the protective measures.

“We had to get our plans turned in several weeks ago,” Gillis said. “We have procedures in place, and we take the proper precautions when we are interacting, receiving and discharging people.”

ICE has changed its enforcement efforts to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cox said.

“As of last Wednesday, ICE temporarily realigned enforcement to public safety risks,” Cox said. “For all other persons, we are exercising discretion until after the crisis or employing alternatives to detention. For those persons who are taken into ICE custody at this time all persons entering detention are subject to screening, and testing is being conducted in accordance with CDC protocol.”

Officials of both CoreCivic and ICE said they have procedures in place to minimize the chance of exposure of COVID-19 to their employees and inmates.

“CoreCivic is working hard to protect our employees, those entrusted to our care, and our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ryan Gustin, manager of public affairs for CoreCivic. “We have a Coronavirus Medical Action Plan in place at each of our facilities, which we’ve been working on since January. This plan includes:

“Having medical staff participate in the intake process to identify those who are deemed high-risk of being infected with or contracting COVID-19; Isolating those who are deemed high-risk; and working with local and state health departments to conduct appropriate testing. All of our facilities are actively promoting the following three health habits for inmates, detainees and residents, as well as staff: regular hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette (coughing or sneezing into a sleeve or tissue), and avoiding touching one’s face.”

Likewise, ICE officials said it has protocols to limit any potential to spread COVID-19.

“ICE has taken extensive actions aimed to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19, and at present we do not have any persons in custody with a positive test,” said Bryan Cox, spokesperson for ICE. “Screening and testing of persons is taking place in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

Core Civic officials said they are working state health departments and following recommendations of those organizations during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Our health services administrators cooperate fully with local and state health departments, and our protocols mirror local, state and federal recommendations,” Gustin said. “Our plan and practices build on the extensive work we do every day to run clean, healthy and safe facilities. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of all our medical staff during this time. We have asked all of our employees to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases by adhering to the following recommendations: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask (medical professionals). Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.”

As of Monday, CoreCivic had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 of its facilities, Gustin said.