Common Sense: Quarantine

A while back there were quite a few prisoners here coming down with serious chest infections. Before long anyone who displayed symptoms was told they had to have a mandatory check up and then faced quarantine. However, no one seemed to understand how quarantine is meant to work.

What everyone should understand is that contagious illnesses don’t spring out of nowhere. In local jails where prisoners are coming in every single day it is easy for viruses to be brought in too, but in prisons like Wakefield it just doesn’t work that way. Prisoners don’t come and go in the same way. The only people who can really bring these illnesses into the prison are staff or visitors. Since it is extremely rare for seriously ill people to actually attend a visit, most of those bugs which do come in are carried by staff. And yet, when a bug does take hold it is the prisoners who are made to suffer.

In this case, the first wave of prisoners to come down with it went to healthcare and were fobbed off in the usual way, offered over the counter pain killers and left to deal with it. Only when it spread right around the wings amongst both prisoners and staff did anyone decide that something had to be done. The solution? Quarantine anyone showing symptoms. And by showing symptoms I mean sneezing, coughing, sniffing, or even clearing their throat. That’s no joke. A friend of mine really did get sent to the doctors simply because he sniffed in the queue for gym. As it turned out, he was one of the few who didn’t get quarantined, but only because he pleaded hay fever.

What was amazing was some officers’ definition of quarantine. On one wing prisoners were quarantined at first but then told the following morning that it was ok, they could come out of their cells and go to work. Only after doing a full days work did they get told they were still on quarantine and would be locked up throughout association in case they infected anyone else.

But the most frustrating thing was when one member of staff insisted on quarantining someone, saying “I’m not having you coming out so I can catch it and take it home to my kids.” Well on the surface that makes total sense and is understandable, but staff were nowhere near as concerned about infection when it was them with the bug and they brought it in rather than have to take a sick day.

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