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PLN cited as source of information about jail MRSA infections in editorial

Times Tribune (KY), Jan. 1, 2010. http://www.thetimestribune.com/editorials/local...
PLN cited as source of information about jail MRSA infections in editorial - Times Tribune (KY) 2010

March 01, 2010 11:16

A public servant should be there to serve to people

With so many different people vying for public office, it gives pause to the question: What do you want in a public servant; what do I expect of a public servant? This thought comes to mind when I see all the faces in the newspaper of men and women running for sheriff, jailer, magistrate, county clerk, and others offices in Laurel County.

Let’s begin with looking at a jailer. When I think of a jailer, my mind goes a long while back to Big John Bowling... and I can say he is the perfect example of a public servant. He had the best interest of the people at heart. He was not there to pass judgment on who was guilty and who was not. He was not elected to be judge and jury.

Big John was not there to punish people. He treated everyone with respect, which is what a jailer is supposed to do. And he was cordial to their families and always available to the press.

When Big John was there, the place was sparkling clean. The food was good, and we never heard of filthy bathrooms and dirty floors. We never heard anyone complain of getting a staph infection; we never heard of poor food or not enough food. In fact, if you went by to visit, Big John would ask you to have lunch... and the food was delicious.

My girls used to go by the jail when they had Girl Scout cookies. Big John would buy all the cookies they had for sale and he gave them to the inmates.

A jail is a holding place until the courts decide on the fate of the incarcerated persons. They don’t need to be exposed to communicable diseases and they shouldn’t have to bathe in showers that reek with germs.

Staph infection has become a deadly bacteria. In recent years it has become resistant to antibiotics and spreads rapidly in close, crowded places. It lives on the skin and in the nose and can be contacted by touch. That is why it is so important for people to have plenty of soap and water and to be careful to wash their hands often and carefully. That is why it’s necessary to sterilize all areas with bleach, which kills the germ.

Now the staph bacterium has grown into a "superbug" which few but the most powerful antibiotics may touch and kill. It is called MRSA, which is methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, and has the power to disable, disfigure and kill people according to an article in a November 2007 issue of The Seattle Times newspaper.

In a December 2007 article about MRSA, written by editor Paul Wright in "Prison Legal News," he quoted an Alternet article by Silja Talvi stating: A sanitary environment is so important; people should wash hands often and use soap and not share towels and wash cloths or razors.

Wright said, “"he deadly staph infection called superbug has a dangerous hold in U.S. jails and prisons." He says it is wise to avoid unbleached washrooms and have the courage to ask medical personnel if they have washed their hands before touching you.

From the newspaper Prison Legal News comes this information: MRSA spreads silently and stealthily and moves quickly from one place to another. It is very difficult to get rid of if you should come in contact with it.

As dangerous as it is, little attention seems to be paid to MRSA. It is running rampant among jail populations, according to Wright. People who enter the criminal justice system often don’t tend to know much about MRSA or how it is spread... or even that there is an existing bacterium.

But the in-house nurse knows.

Prisoners obviously infected with MRSA are not separated from the general populations and believe the infection is a spider bite, boils or pimples. Some jails do not provide enough soap; bath soap does not get rid of surface germs. Often showers and toilets are not cleaned with bleach that will kill staph germs.

Wright said people deprived of their liberty as punishment should not be sentenced to suffer needlessly. He says the way MRSA continues to be treated (or not treated) is a direct and ugly consequence of the dehumanization of men, women and youth locked away from our collective consciousness. He calls it ignorant — baffling at best; callous and sadistic at worst.

Those are my sentiments exactly! And we need a new jailer who will follow the rules of human decency and have knowledge of the importance of sanitation. The jailer should be available and do his duty as a public servant, not dehumanize the inmates, who are all somebody’s children.

With more than 200 inmates in one place, there are more than enough hands to keep the jail sparkling clean without hurting anyone.


Shirley Caudill of London is a former newspaper editor/publisher and longtime freelance columnist. She is a Nashville native who has lived in Kentucky 40 years. She has six children, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and is married to a retired Army First Sergeant.