Philadelphia prison officials pledged Monday to complete and release coronavirus test results for all inmates and staff members by the end of January after a federal judge mandated universal testing amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in city prisons.
Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney explained the testing plans as she faced tough questions from City Council during a hearing on the coronavirus inside the prison system.
Council members expressed concern about the practice of placing inmates exposed to the virus in solitary confinement and charging families for virtual visits with inmates, and about a lack of clear data on prison staff members who have tested positive for the virus.
The city’s prisons have been under shelter-in-place restrictions, allowing inmates to leave their cells only for showers and virtual visits with lawyers or relatives since earlier this month. A similar policy was in effect during a spring wave of the virus, but restrictions were eased during the summer and early fall, during which Carney said inmates were spending up to six hours a day outside their cells.
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