This story was updated at 7 p.m. on Jan. 12 to add a comment from CoreCivic.
During a Friday morning court hearing, a Silverdale Detention Center inmate again told a Hamilton County Criminal Court judge that he had to "cause a scene" at least twice in order to receive his prescribed daily medication and that inmates weren't being provided with masks or cleaning supplies to help protect themselves from COVID-19.
Local attorney Chad Wilson has been fighting to have his client Tommie Lyons' one-year jail sentence amended after learning Lyons contracted COVID-19 in the Hamilton County Jail and had not been receiving his prescribed daily medication and weekly blood work for a potentially deadly pre-existing condition that has left Lyons immunocompromised.
Criminal Court Judge Don Poole, concerned at the alleged failure to provide Lyons with his medication as prescribed, has held three hearings to ensure the medications are being administered but has stopped short of issuing any orders about the medication or the alleged lack of COVID-19 precautions. A fourth update hearing will take place later this month.
Since the last hearing on Dec. 18, the Hamilton County Jail has been closed and all inmates transferred to Silverdale. CoreCivic, the private company that operated Silverdale, ended its contract with the county, meaning operational control of the facility has returned to the sheriff's office. That is why Poole has held multiple hearings — to ensure Lyons doesn't see a lapse in care during the transition.
During Friday's hearing, Lyons said he missed his medication at least twice in recent weeks and received it late on two other days after he "caused a scene" by waiting outside his cell and almost getting sprayed with pepper spray, he said.
"It's like, how many scenes am I going to have to cause? [The medication] should already be on the cart," he said.
Robin Ponthier, who took Freida Thompson's position as health services administrator after the transition, said Lyons has been receiving his daily medications, though she said she would have to double check the records.
Ponthier said Lyons has not received a blood test since last month because she was unable to find any paperwork in his file ordering weekly tests. She said those kinds of tests are typically done monthly unless an abnormality is detected, at which point more frequent tests would be ordered.
As far as COVID-19 precautions, two local attorneys who had recently visited their clients at Silverdale testified during last month's hearing that they'd seen a majority of employees either not wearing a mask at all or only below the chin, and most inmates did not have masks.
On Friday, Lyons said, "There's no masks, no cleaning supplies, no — we don't even have a mop or broom in the unit that I'm in right now which is supposed to be in the unit with us."
"When they did the transition [CoreCivic] took everything."
A spokesperson for CoreCivic said that the company left "approximately three weeks' worth of supplies to ensure a safe and seamless transition."
Ponthier said, "anytime anybody comes in with an infectious disease, we do contact tracing which means from the moment that person walks in, we try to identify, identify everybody that person who has been in contact with."
And immunocompromised inmates "would not be placed in a cell with another person that is immunocompromised or a person that has a communicable disease."
With masks and social distancing, Ponthier said it's a challenge because staff can't force inmates to wear the masks or to remain six feet apart from others, something Sheriff Jim Hammond has said since the early days of the pandemic.
"We cannot force that in the community, we cannot force that in the jail," she said. "When I see two people standing together, I asked him to separate. When I go by, and I see somebody without a mask, I either hand them a mask or ask them to put it on. We practice continuous cleaning. We try our very best to make sure that people have access to hygiene — water, clean uniforms, clean towels."
As for how administrators enforce mask wearing among employees, Ponthier said those who repeatedly do not wear masks face discipline up to termination, a contrast to the CoreCivic administrator who said employees were simply given a mask or asked why they weren't wearing one.
Poole said he wanted to hear an update on Jan. 22 and asked Ponthier to make sure Lyons received his daily medication and appropriate blood work.
"I want to make sure that he is cared for, and I want everybody to be cared for," Poole said. "I did hear from two credible attorneys about, as Mr. Wilson argues this morning, that a lot of people weren't [taking COVID-19 precautions], but that was, I guess, a different administration."
He asked Ponthier to make sure every effort was made to make sure that people appropriately wear masks.
"I think that's probably all we can do," he said.
Contact Rosana Hughes at 423-757-6327, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.