In this Jan. 28, 2016, file photo, a man does maintenance work between razor wire-topped fences at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington. Credit: Elaine Thompson | AP

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Life in any congregate setting right now poses additional risks for residents and staff from COVID-19. That’s also true of jails and prisons.

Jacinta Hunt is a resident of the Women’s Re-entry Center in Windham who had been working as a hostess at a restaurant in South Portland until the pandemic brought outside work and visits to the facility to a halt.

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A mother and a peer recovery coach, Hunt told Maine Public Radio News’ Susan Sharon about what life has been like since.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

“My first thought was, ‘This is the safest place to be.’ I didn’t put too much thought into it until I started to watch the news, then the anxiety set in.

“Being in prison, you live in close proximity to everybody. You are 4 feet from your roommate at all times. You have to lock-in a couple times a day. They have to do counts. When you’re out, you only have so many places to sit. In order to do any type of socializing, you only have so much living space here, so to social distance in prison is nearly impossible. We do what we can. We sanitize 4-5 times a day. They lock everybody down and while everybody’s locked down, they spray everything. They let it sit for 10 minutes and they wipe it down.

“The last time I saw my family was a couple months ago. I normally don’t have visits in the facility, I take passes with my family. As far as the other women go, visits were cut I believe a month ago. They stopped it because they want to stop as much traffic inside the facility as possible.

“It’s hard for women to accept the fact that we can’t see our family. Everybody wants to get angry about it. Everybody has hurt feelings.

“They’re allowing us to have more time on the phone. They have reduced the charge on the phone, and they also gave us free time on the phone. They gave us $20 on the phone. Along with that they have increased our Skype visits. They’re making it so there’s other ways for us to stay in contact with our family.

“If you have any type of symptoms, if you go to medical for even common cold symptoms, they will quarantine you for at least 72 hours. If you continue to show symptoms, then they will test you.

“I try to remind the women that it’s a time to be strong. It’s a time to utilize your strengths.

“It’s tough, but one, we’re women. Two, we’re mothers. Three, we care about each other. It’s hard to distance each other in a time of need when we just need to come together. So that’s what we’re doing.”

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

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