JESSUP, Md. (WJZ) -- A correctional officer based in the Jessup Correctional Institution is voicing concerns that the coronavirus may spread wildly behind bars.
The officer, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke to WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren about the dangers of the job.
"My fear is that it's already spread through the prison, and it's just going to continue to spread like wildfire. And then it's going to be a disaster, and I'm terrified," the officer said. "We will take care of the inmates. They need to take care of this coronavirus and keep their people protected."
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Cases of the novel coronavirus in Maryland surged to at least 1,660 Tuesday and the number of deaths rose more than 25 percent to at least 23.
A union representing some state employees has been critical of how Maryland has handled the situation at prisons and at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital, where there are confirmed coronavirus cases.
Three coronavirus cases are tied to Maryland correctional facilities, including two workers and an inmate.
Corrections officials said in a news release Monday the safety of its employees and inmates is their top priority:
"The Department has been in proactive emergency mode since day one, working with state and federal health authorities and following approved COVID-19 protocols. DPSCS has been deep-cleaning its facilities—including the ones affected—for days. The Department has identified locations and spaces within its facilities for isolation and quarantine. To the extent possible, social distancing is being practiced. Correctional facility visits were canceled. Modified movements, curtailed programming, and grab-and-go meals with no congregation in the dining halls have been implemented...."
The officer WJZ spoke to claims they have been asked not to wear masks and says other protective gear is hard to come by.
"My main thing is being protected. I'd feel a lot better if I could wear a mask at the very least. I'm already dreading going in a very dangerous place, and this makes it even worse to go in," the officer said "We are just a person on a piece of paper, and they don't care what happens as long as we work. You're in a petri dish and you're just waiting to get it."
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby has repeatedly pushed for the release of non-violent inmates statewide amid the pandemic, a proposal that hasn't gotten a warm response from Gov. Larry Hogan.
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