‘They’re going to eat them:’ Alabama jail refuses to give masks to inmates

‘They’re going to eat them:’ Alabama jail refuses to give masks to inmates
The Madison County Sheriff's Office said inmates could harm themselves or others with the masks with the metal nose pieces, by tying them together to make ropes or worse. (Madison County Sheriff's Office/Madison County Sheriff's Office)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — An Alabama jail has refused to give inmates face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, citing safety concerns.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office said inmates could harm themselves or others with the masks with the metal nose pieces, by tying them together to make ropes or worse.

“You give them face masks (with) a nose piece — metal pieces in them — they’re going to eat them,” Brent Patterson, a spokesman for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office told AL.com. “They’re going to swallow them.”

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A health order requires residents in Madison County to wear a mask in public, but that does not apply to the jail. 

“Jails will have, as part of their mitigation plans for COVID-19, their own guidance regarding the wearing of face coverings or masks,” Madison County Health Officer Karen Landers said. 

A jailer recently tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting Sheriff Kevin Turner to require employees at the jail to wear masks, AL.com reported.

The sheriff said no inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Statewide, 10 inmates and two employees have died from the coronavirus. There are 99 confirmed cases among inmates in the state prison system and 199 employees have tested positive, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections