Cleaning to prevent the spread of infection in a correctional facility presents challenges unlike any other challenges faced in institutional cleaning. Over the past forty years, the number of incarcerated individuals in the United States has increased from just over a 500K in 1980 to over 2.2 million in 2016. This abundance of incarcerated Americans has pushed our prisons and jails to capacity resulting in overcrowded facilities that were not built with cleaning for health in mind.
“Most jails and prisons were constructed to maximize public safety, not to minimize the transmission of disease or to efficiently deliver health care. The probability of transmission of potentially pathogenic organisms is increased by crowding…rationed access to soap, water, and clean laundry, [and] insufficient infection-control expertise…”
– Joseph Bick
Furthermore, correctional populations are typically comprised of individuals from impoverished socioeconomic communities that have limited access to health care and education. The result is inmate populations with higher rates of physical and mental illnesses than the general public. Incarceration is a hard enough challenge for inmates and correctional staff without the added burden of poor health or mortality as a result of ineffective cleaning practices. That’s why it is so important for correctional facilities and cleaners to make cleaning for health a top priority.
While we recognize that not all infections may be prevented through better cleaning practices (i.e. HIV, hepatitis, and STIs), our blog will instead focus on the spread of infections that may be prevented through better cleaning practices (i.e. influenza, common cold, MRSA, staph, etc.). Here we will discuss 1) identifying common factors that lead to infection; 2) how to create and implement a cleaning and infection control plan; and 3) using the right cleaning methodologies to help prevent the spread of infection.
1. Identifying Common Factors that Lead to Infection
Some of the more common factors inmates face that may lead to the spread of infection are:
- Inmate overcrowding
- Limited access to soap and water
- Limited access to clean laundry
- Limited access to cleaning chemicals and cleaning tools (to prevent either from being used as weapons by inmates)
- Inadequately trained inmates performing cleaning responsibilities
- Insufficient number of toilets
- Sharing infected clothing or bathing items like razors and towels
- Architectural designs that provide harborage to harmful bacteria and pathogens
- Exposure to hundreds of thousands of visitors and correctional staff
- Frequent moves within a facility or to a new facility
A number of factors lead to the spread of infection in correctional facilities.
Once these common factors are identified, the creation and implementation of a cleaning and infection control plan is essential.
2. Creating and Implementing Cleaning and Infection Control Plan
Developing a cleaning and infection control plan for an institution like a school or university is challenging. But developing a cleaning plan for a correctional facility can seem nearly impossible due to the complexity of inmate needs. Correctional facilities not only house short- and long-term populations, but they also provide many basic institutional offerings under one roof. It is common for correctional facilities to have classrooms, barbershops, commissaries, infirmaries, assisted/senior living facilities, hospice care, care for the developmentally disabled, etc. Because of the added complexity, careful consideration should be used when creating and implementing a cleaning and infection control plan. Some considerations may include:
Most correctional facilities are cleaned by inexperienced or undertrained inmates. Providing proper training can make a major difference in preventing the spread of infection.
Personal Protective Equipment/Chemical Safety
Providing personal protective equipment and training on how to properly handle and use cleaning chemicals will help keep inmates and cleaning staff safe while ensuring the best results.
Ensure inmates have the proper tools and PPE
Proper Cleaning Tools
Using the right tool for the job is invaluable. For example, cleaning solution helps to dislodge unwanted soil from surfaces, but if the unwanted soil is not removed completely it may continue to provide harborage to harmful bacteria. Removing the cleaning solution and soil with a microfiber cloth will be more effective than using an ordinary cloth rag or a mop.
3. Using the Right Cleaning Method for Infection Control
Understanding how the right cleaning methodology can lead to better infection control is a key component for correctional facility cleaning. For the best results with infection control, we recommend using the Two-Step Cleaning Process.
Step One: Clean First
This step is less about killing germs, and more about the removal of the unwanted matter. If the unwanted matter or soil is not removed, it may serve as harborage to dangerous pathogens, protecting them from the killing power of disinfectants.
Step Two: Disinfect After
While cleaning solutions help to reduce populations of germs, they don’t necessarily kill them. That’s where the second step of the two-step cleaning process comes in. Disinfectants are designed specifically to kill germs, and, when used correctly, disinfectants can help control dangerous pathogens like listeria, E. coli, streptococcus, norovirus, and many others.
For more information on Two-Step Cleaning and other effective cleaning methods, please visit our blog here.
As more and more Americans are incarcerated and released back to the general public, it is essential that we are doing everything we can to prevent the spread of infection in these facilities – not only for the inmates and correctional staff, but for us all.