Father speaks out after Washington County Jail turns away mask donations for inmates

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/FOX 24) — A father is speaking out after the Washington County Jail turned him away when he tried to donate masks for the inmates.

“It worries me that they are just throwing them in there to die,” said Randall Goodwin, who’s son is an inmate in the jail right now.

He and his wife said they just want to protect their son, and all the other inmates in the jail from getting the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19. He said the face coverings the jail is currently providing aren’t good enough.

“All the guards are wearing gaiters or masks and then the inmates are wearing these,” he said as he held up a bandana.

Goodwin said Walmart donated hundreds of masks to his cause, something he is very grateful to the corporation for doing.

“I have what these masks that I tried to donate are made of and it’s 90% polyester and 3% spandex,” he said.

A study by Duke University found that bandanas are one of the worst ways to stop the spread of respiratory droplets, while polyester masks ranked near the top.

Captain Alan Johnson from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said there are currently 34 inmates who are COVID positive out of about 700 inmates. He said they have mild symptoms.

He said the jail consulted medical providers and the county health department about using the bandanas.

“The cost and the convenience of giving them another when we take the first up to disinfect it far outweighs the other,” he said.

Goodwin said he was given other reasons for not accepting the masks.

“The first time they told me that they could not accept them because they were not all the same,” said Goodwin.

“They were all different colors and styles so people would be fighting over them,” said Capt. Johnson.

Goodwin said the bandanas the inmates have are all black, so there is no differentiation. Another reason he sad was given given was that the masks would be destroyed when washed.

“With the laundering situation, we have industrial strength washers and driers. and they would be tore up during that process, I believe,” said Capt. Johnson.

Goodwin said he found out the number of inmates in the jail before approaching Walmart and asked for the number of masks he was given. Capt. Johnson said Goodwin came with about 600 masks and that there wouldn’t be enough for everyone in the jail to get their own.

Goodwin said he can only hope his son remains safe.

“I’m scared to death that the county coroner is going to come to my door and tell me my son didn’t make it through the night,” he said.

Capt. Johnson said they are looking out for inmate safety.

“We’re monitoring them all the time so that is our number one priority is their saftey and health,” he said.

He added that they are always open to help from the public, but he asks that people contact the sheriff’s office beforehand so they can see if the help being offered is a possibility.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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