October 9, 2020

CBHJ, School of Medicine and Wayne County develop toolkit of COVID-19 mitigation strategies for Michigan county jails

The Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and Justice collaborated with the Wayne County Jail to identify key mitigation strategies county jails can use to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities. The toolkit provides guidance for implementation of testing, contact tracing, information sharing and discharge planning, along with examples of practices put in place in the Wayne County Jail.

As the disease spread across Michigan and mitigation efforts began to emerge, county administrators worked with the Wayne State University School of Social Work Center for Behavioral Health and Justice and the School of Medicine to formulate strategies to slow the spread of the virus. Funding was provided from the Michigan Justice Fund to facilitate the collaborative efforts of community, public health, social work, criminal-legal judicial stakeholders and the development of four COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies that are expanded within the toolkit: 1) COVID-19 testing, 2) community contact tracing, 3) information sharing, 4) discharge planning.

“Incarceration settings account for a large portion of the COVID-19 outbreaks nationally, surpassing other vulnerable settings such as nursing homes and food processing plants, so mitigating the spread in these facilities should be key to any community mitigation efforts” said Brad Ray, director of the CBHJ.

Combining jail testing data with data regarding the surrounding community and region is important in informing decisions related to jail operations. Since March 2020, jails across the country have taken measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission, including verbal screening, freeing inmates, restricting movement within facilities, prohibiting visitation and suspending internal programming. However, few have implemented testing or implemented effective data measures.

“This toolkit will provide better access to information and protocols on limiting contact with COVID-19 in our jails,” said Jennifer Caruso, director of the Wayne County Clinical Services Division.

The goal of the toolkit is to provide the experience and knowledge gained thus far in Wayne County (Detroit) to other public county jails, as well as outline key considerations for jail facilities, and the successes, or barriers, of recommended practices from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other criminal justice, public health and community stakeholders. Mitigation strategies will differ for each jail depending on a number of factors. The recommendations contained in the toolkit should not supersede guidance from governing entities, such as state health and correctional departments or local public health agencies.

View the toolkit to learn more or contact the CBHJ for more information.