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Tensas Parish Detention Center workers threaten to strike over ‘poor working conditions’

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 10:30 PM CDT
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TENSAS PARISH, La. (KNOE) - Tensas Parish Detention Center workers are airing out their grievances and threatening to go on strike after they claim their voices weren’t heard by higher-ups.

Officers submitted a letter to Sheriff Rickey Jones on Thursday, August 13. In the letter, they said that they previously expressed their concerns to the warden, assistant warden, a Human Resources Officer, and a major. Workers claim that “unfortunately the problems continued to persist resulting in unsafe working conditions, overworked employees, discrimination, and poor treatment of employees.”

Workers held a meeting with the Sheriff and other administrators on Friday, August 14. Workers expressed their concerns outlined in the letter which are:

1. Failure to quarantine COVID-19 positive inmates from the general population

2. Requiring employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, are still experiencing symptoms and have failed to provide negative test results to return to work

3. Poor sanitation throughout the facility, such as mold in the ice machine and failure to decontaminate working space between shifts

4. Poor working conditions, such as lack of air conditioning in areas of the facility

5. Understaffed shifts

6. Failure to provide mandatory meal breaks following state and federal laws

7. Failure to provide adequate downtime of 6 to 8 hours as required for officers working more than 16 hours shifts

8. Discrimination based on traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists

9. Failure to follow the Center of Disease Control workplace guidelines as it relates to COVID-19.

One officer, who is black, claimed that she was suspended after being told that her naturally sandy colored hair violated the facility’s handbook. She claims that the warden told her that her hair was supposed to be black. Another officer claims that a woman was fired for her “mini twists” hairstyle because they were told it violated the same handbook. They also said the warden constantly changed the handbook prior to the person being fired.

Workers initially said that they would strike if a resolution was not met. A worker claims that they were told that “smaller things” would be worked out and that there have been quotes placed for the air conditioning. They also said they were promised pay raises in March but still have not received them. Workers said that are re-evaluating the strike and also considering calling state officials for the next steps.

KNOE reached out to the warden for comment who referred us to the Sheriff’s Office. We called and emailed the office asking about the outcome of the meeting and the next steps. We have not received a response at the writing of this article.

Copyright 2020 KNOE. All rights reserved.

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