Inmates In Texas Being Paid $2 An Hour To Move Coronavirus Victims' Bodies
CBS reports that El Paso has become so overwhelmed by coronavirus fatalities that it's had to draft in extra help from the county's detention facility, having enlisted inmates to assist with the overflow of bodies awaiting autopsy.
The county is reportedly paying nine inmates to carry out the work, at a rate of $2 per hour.
Chris Acosta, public affairs director at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, described the workers as 'low-level offenders', telling CBS that they have been 'provided full PPE by the morgue/hospital'.
"The work is 100% voluntary," she said.
"It's great that these individuals are stepping up and volunteering to assist a community in dire need of help right now."
She added that the inmates may not be doing the work for much longer, as the county has requested assistance from the National Guard.
If they can help move the bodies, the inmates will no longer continue, Acosta said.
The workers come from the El Paso County Detention Facility's trustee programme, and are misdemeanour offenders and those in minimum custody.
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Volunteering daily between 8am and 4pm, the shifts started on Monday (16 November).
While prison labour isn't unusual in the United States, where inmates often perform jobs for little or no pay, the practice in this instance has drawn some criticism.
Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, a policy think tank, shared a video of the inmates carrying out the 'tough' work on Twitter.
"Chilling video of El Paso jail inmates hired to move bodies of #COVID19 deceased patients into mobile overflow morgues," he wrote.
"Inmates wear full PPEs & paid $2/hour. They've been doing this tough work since Monday, before El Paso increased to 10 mobile morgues. I cry for El Paso."
He added: "These inmates were only supposed to work weekdays, but now needed to work weekends as well."
According to local health data, El Paso County has around 34,000 active cases of coronavirus, with more than 1,100 people currently in hospital.
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