CIC Board Chairman, Charles Thornton, conducted a walk-through of Fairview RRC on April 3, 2020, in response to community concerns regarding the coronavirus and its impact on halfway house populations. On March 31, 2020, he sent a request for himself and two additional CIC staff members to view the facility and speak with residents. Fairview Director, Sheri McCoy, received the request. She replied that the facility owner, Ms. Reynolds of Reynolds and Associates, would permit one person to visit and speak with staff and residents.
The current roster of the facility at that time was comprised of 20 residents. Of those 20, nine were on home confinement, and 11 were housed at the facility. Of the 11 housed at the facility, nine were from the BOP and two were from the DC DOC. Since Chairman Thornton’s visit, there have been additional home confinement placements. The most recent roster, subject to daily adjustments, is comprised of 20 women, with 14 on home confinement and only six women at the facility.
On April 3rd, Chairman Thornton arrived at 10 a.m., and observed a number of vehicles in the parking lot. The day shift for staff, occurring from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., is comprised of seven people, which explained the vehicles. The evening and weekend shifts are comprised of two staff members.
Upon entering the facility, he was immediately escorted to a reception area, where his temperature was taken, and he was asked the following questions:
- Are you currently experiencing any flu-like symptoms, cough, fever, or shortness of breath?
- Have you come into direct contact with a person with the COVID-19 virus, or have you recently traveled to a country affected by the COVID-19 virus?
After answering “No”, he was escorted to a bathroom in order to wash his hands, and he was provided with gloves and a face mask. All staff wore personal protective equipment, which is required by the facility for the protection of both staff and residents. He was then escorted to the case management area to meet with Mr. James Lynch, Senior Case Manager. The meeting was also attended via conference call by BOP Regional RRC Supervisor, Ed Fonteno, and Fairview Director McCoy.
Mr. Lynch provided Chairman Thornton with a copy of the Fairview COVID-19 Emergency Plan (see attachment). Mr. Fonteno stated that the BOP guidelines had not changed since the CIC’s last visit to Hope Village: halfway house residents are still on “no movement” status; the subsistence pay acquired from residents is waived; and some guidelines for home confinement are waived, such as social pass requirements – which previously were a prerequisite to home confinement. Director McCoy and Ms. Reynolds met with residents when the new guidelines were established in order to explain how such actions were implemented as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional supplies were purchased as part of the Emergency Plan in the event that stores shut down, and family members are also permitted to drop off personal supplies for the residents. Community based organizations have provided even more support by delivering personal hygiene products. Chairman Thornton asked if any residents had compromised immune systems or any health aliments that would place them at a higher risk for complications upon contracting the virus. He was informed that the facility had no knowledge of such persons who might classify as high risk.
Two residents were awaiting interstate transfers, and three residents were beyond their home confinement dates. Director McCoy indicated that the US Probation Office had stopped verifying home confinement locations for their cases, which was creating a barrier for US Probation clients. In order to address the situation, the US Probation Office agreed to a virtual confirmation of residences, and two are currently on home confinement.
Current room assignments and reduced facility numbers allow for all residents to have their own separate rooms, which complies with CDC social distancing guidelines. Fairview has also implemented a modified eating schedule, which allows for approximately five people in the dining area at the same time, while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Chairman Thornton toured the kitchen and supplies areas as well. He viewed three storage areas with stockpiles of food, personal hygiene items, and cleaning products.
Programming appears ongoing. Chairman Thornton observed a Life Skills class in progress conducted by staff, and he was also informed that mental health and computer classes are continuing. Residents were not wearing PPE, but social distancing and virtual classes are utilized. Project Reconnect delivered 11 tablets in order for the women to use for their life skills classes and other learning opportunities. The Chairman also observed and spoke with two residents who were teleworking from the computer lab with their respective employers. Additionally, he observed one resident in the computer lab continuing with online educational requirements. If the weather permits, daily recreational walks around the parking lot are allowed.
As a follow-up, Chairman Thornton attended a zoom meeting with the residents on Wednesday April 15th as part of the National Association for the Advancement of Returning Citizens (NAARC) support group set up by Mr. Eric Weaver. The support group will continue weekly, and serves as a great deal of support and comfort to the ladies. During that call, he learned that a previous Life Skills class, which was virtually taught by Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson of Project Reconnect, was extremely beneficial to them. Additionally, concerns were expressed regarding use of smart phones, limited use of the computer lab, and no video visits. New BOP guidelines permit the use of smart phones, but DOC guidelines still prohibit usage. After Chairman Thornton discussed those concerns with Director McCoy, within 24-hours - computer lab access was increased, and the facility allows video visits using Zoom and Facetime. The facility also allows smart phones to facilitate communications with families; however, residents from the DOC are not permitted to use smart phones in order to comply with their regulations.
During the April 3rd visit, Chairman Thornton also inquired about an alleged infrastructure complaint due to plumbing problems. A leak in one of the restrooms caused a ceiling collapse; however, the restroom was still operable, in addition to other restrooms on both floors. Mr. Lynch confirmed the existence of the recent leak, which was rectified, and they were waiting for the ceiling to be patched. Mr. Fonteno stated that he was also aware of the incident, and after inspecting the facility, he found that it complied with BOP guidelines.
Fairview RRC is demonstrating model compliance with the CDC guidelines by reducing their in-house population in order to facilitate social distancing, and allowing increased access to technology in order to continue employment, educational, and support opportunities.