Jail sanitization struggles (and how to make things better)


The problem of maintaining sanitary conditions in jails is centuries old. Jail populations present profound challenges to preventing disease spread. Perhaps most significant is the constant churn of people in and out. These challenges put lives at risk, particularly during serious medical events such as COVID-19. Proactive jail sanitization measures are needed to prevent illness and death, within jails and in the communities surrounding them.

Why are jails so difficult to keep sanitary?

If the problem has been around for so long, why haven’t we solved it yet? Part of the reason is that jailing large populations of people together is always risky for human health. In the U.S., we cycle approximately 10.5 million people through our jail system every year. That means three quarters of a million people confined in jails every single day.[1]

Every person, including staff and visitors, can introduce pathogens into the facility. Once present, those pathogens can spread like wildfire.

The number of people affected by an outbreak of disease in jail is potentially enormous. Prison staff are at risk during common tasks such as fingerprinting or transport. Community members are at risk when they enter jails as family visitors, contractors, volunteers and more. Ultimately, research shows that infections in jails don’t stay behind bars. One study projected an additional 99,000 to 188,000 COVID-19 deaths in the community as a result of jail outbreaks. Since that study’s publication in April 2020, the numbers have likely gone up.

How jails can improve health and hygiene

Fortunately for anyone with the heavy responsibility of keeping a jail healthy, there’s good news. There are many simple, concrete actions that officials can take to reduce the probability of infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), possible steps to curb infection include:

  • Encourage mask wearing for all (staff, visitors and incarcerated persons).
  • Provide sufficient access to soap, running water and tissues at no additional cost.
  • Screen all incoming persons for symptoms, verbally and with temperature checks.
  • Suspend co-pays for jail health services.
  • Create a separate quarantine area to house those experiencing symptoms.
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
  • Increase the number of staff and/or incarcerated persons trained to sanitize common areas.
  • Ensure adequate cleaning and disinfection supplies.

Sanitize faster, better

The CDC emphasizes having a robust sanitizing regimen in jail, whether or not COVID-19 is known to be present. However, many sanitizing methods can be prohibitive in a jail setting. Fogging communal areas, for example, renders them inaccessible for up to several hours. If housing faces into communal areas, staff must remove incarcerated persons for the entire fogging process. While thorough, such a method simply is not practical in an active jail facility.

A high-end sanitizing sprayer is often ideal for jails. Depending on the facility, different advanced sprayer technologies offer different benefits. Extremely large, relatively open spaces can be quickly sanitized by a small team with a high-pressure airless sprayer with multiple spray gun attachments. These spaces can be back in commission after just a few minutes.

Electrostatic and airless backpack sprayers are another fast solution. Electrostatic sprayers are particularly simple to operate. That makes it easier to train new operators in their safe and effective use. Backpack models allow up to 28,000 square feet of sanitization on a single fill. This makes for quick work of almost any type of jail housing.

Safe jails are possible during COVID-19 (and beyond)

The difficulties of curbing infection in jails aren’t likely to go away completely, barring a total transformation of our nation’s system of incarceration. Fortunately, we can ease those difficulties with the right solutions. Frequent, effective sanitization is a top method for minimizing the spread of germs. With the right technology, that sanitization can be executed quickly and efficiently, minimizing the interruption to daily operations.

EnviroPro Solutions carries a variety of sanitizing sprayers, suitable for facilities of every size and complexity. Each jail is unique, and we’re proud to help you find the unique solution that’s right for your operation. To find out more, reach out to us at [email protected].

[1] https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/impact-of-coronavirus-outbreak-on-jails.html