Rock Island County Jail COVID Concerns

It comes after Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos said the jail is not experiencing a COVID outbreak.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – Jail staff speak out about COVID issues at Rock Island County Jail.

It comes after Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos said the jail is not experiencing a COVID outbreak.

Employees told News 8 they face a different story at work.

“Characterizing it as an epidemic or that there is a problem that we have here just isn’t true,” Bustos said.

“I tend to disagree with the sheriff on this,” prison staff union president Jeff Stulir said.

A former inmate told News 8 he felt the prison did not take enough COVID precautions while he was serving his sentence in October 2021.

“It’s horrible in there as far as the pandemic goes,” said the former inmate, who wished to remain anonymous. “It’s really scary.”

The former inmate said there was a lack of PPE and the separation of those with and without viruses.

“I know prison isn’t supposed to be fun and fun, but when it’s a pandemic and people are dying, they have to take it seriously,” the former inmate said.

Bustos said the prison had had “a few” sick inmates in recent months, but none as of Jan. 20.

“Things in the county jail are no different anywhere else in America,” Bustos said.

Bustos said only a “couple” of employees were sick as of Jan. 20.

“We certainly have a lot of protocols in place,” Bustos said.

The sheriff said an issue arises with COVID restrictions that prevent county jail inmates from being sent to jail.

“I only have a limited number of places to put people,” Bustos said.

“The main problem is that we have an epidemic,” Stulir said.

Stulir said about 15 employees have taken off due to COVID since late December 2021.

“This (wave) seems to cover a lot more inmates and staff,” Stulir said.

“Morale is low, because we don’t have what we need,” corrections officer Celica Martinez said.

Staff said every cell in the prison has been under quarantine since Christmas 2021. Staff said that means at least one positive case in every unit.

“We need PPE, we need equipment that hospitals use, because we go to those units,” Martinez said. “We do what we can.”

“It tires the staff,” Stulir said. “It’s hard for them.”

Staff members said there may be more COVID cases among inmates than reported due to a recent lack of testing.

Bustos said inmates are tested after showing symptoms, which staff said several inmates have those signs.

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