Bed Bugs in Jails and Prisons

In the often-overlooked realm of corrections, a pervasive and persistent issue silently creeps through the confined spaces of jails and prisons—bed bugs. While the focus on inmate rehabilitation and facility security remains the priority, these tiny pests pose a unique challenge to the already complex environment of correctional facilities. In this blog, we will explore unsettling stories of bed bugs within the walls of correctional facilities and explore the implications for inmates, staff, and visitors. From the nuances of detection to the potential health risks, join us on a journey to uncover the hidden challenges that bed bugs present in the criminal justice system.

Unsettling Personal Accounts of Bed Bugs in Jails & Prisons

It was recently reported that a man was found dead in the psychiatric ward of the Fulton County Jail in Georgia. He was reportedly covered in bugs in a cell with deplorable conditions. Although the report from the medical examiner does not attribute his death to bed bugs, they did state that a severe bed bug infestation was found in his cell. The man’s family was awarded a large settlement from the county due to the extreme neglect.

In Oklahoma County, inmates have repeatedly reported a bed bug infestation. According to a recent news article, the jail has replaced the mattresses, but inmates say it won’t help because the bed bugs are infesting everything. The CEO of the Oklahoma County Detention Center says they are working on spraying the entire building and hiring a certified pest technician to keep on staff, as well as, addressing building deficiencies and cleanliness.

In Clifton, Tennessee, inmates reportedly sent dead bed bugs to a news station as proof that the South Central Correctional Center is dealing with a bed bug infestation. The inmates claim that the facility is sprayed occasionally but the problem has persisted for a year. The facility released a statement that they are aggressively working to address the issue.

A few years ago, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Pacific Station Jail was closed down because of a bed bug infestation according to reports. The building was treated by professional exterminators with chemical to eliminate the infestation.

These are only a few examples of reported bed bug infestations in jails, prisons, and detention centers. These incidents show us that bed bug issues that go unaddressed can become very costly whether it be due to extensive treatment, replacement of goods, and/or settlements due to psychological and physical harm. Additionally, bed bug problems in correctional facilities do not only harm inmates, but also effect employees of the facility. Employees are at risk of picking up bed bugs and taking them home.

How can all of these negative outcomes be prevented at your jail, prison, or detention center? Let’s talk through some helpful bed bug prevention and bed bug treatment options.

Bed Bug Prevention and Treatment Options

The best way to prevent a major bed bug infestation in your correctional facility is to be vigilant about bed bug inspection. Educate staff and inmates about how to check for bed bugs and have a clear system for reporting bed bug findings. Here are some key strategies for educating staff and inmates:

  1. Identification: Teach staff and inmates how to identify bed bugs, including their appearance, behavior, and common hiding spots within living areas.
  2. Preventive Measures: Emphasize proactive steps to prevent infestations, such as regular cleaning, and vigilant inspection of mattresses, furniture, and clothing.
  3. Reporting Procedures: Establish clear protocols for reporting bed bug sightings to facility management or designated personnel promptly. Encourage open communication to ensure timely response and containment.
  4. Personal Hygiene: Educate inmates on personal hygiene practices that discourage bed bugs, such as regular showering, laundering clothing and bedding, and avoiding clutter in living areas.
  5. Treatment Options: Educate staff about the available treatment options for bed bug infestations, including professional extermination services, heat treatments, and insecticide applications. Emphasize the importance of following treatment protocols to ensure effective eradication.
  6. Collaborative Efforts: Foster a collaborative approach between staff and prisoners in addressing bed bug issues. Encourage mutual respect and cooperation to maintain a clean and hygienic living environment for everyone.
  7. Regular Training: Schedule regular training sessions for staff to refresh their knowledge of bed bug prevention and management strategies. Ensure that new employees receive comprehensive education on this topic during orientation.

By implementing these initiatives, jails, prisons, and detention centers can empower both staff and inmates to play an active role in preventing bed bug infestations.

Incorporating preventative measures will decrease the instances of bed bug problems. Creating an inmate intake procedure will prevent new inmates from bringing bed bugs to the correctional facility. In addition to the facilities intake procedures already in place, consider adding procedures that would prevent the spread of bed bugs. If inmates bring any personal items from their last location, treat those items with a Zappbug Heat Chamber to kill any bed bugs they may have hitched a ride. Give the inmate new clothing and be sure the clothing they came in with is transported in a plastic bag to be washed and dried.

Mattress encasements will protect mattresses from becoming infested with new bed bugs as they have a sealed zipper and special zip-n-click zipper lock to prevent bed bugs from getting in or out of the encasement. If bed bugs are already in the mattress, an encasement will seal them in so they can no longer feed on the inmates. We also recommend Lights Out All-Natural Bed Bug Spray as a part of your preventative measures. This spray qualifies for the 25(b) exemption in the EPA Pesticide Regulations. This means that it can be sprayed without the hiring a licensed professional. Apply Lights Out to chairs in common areas and visiting rooms. Have staff apply it to their belongings to prevent them from transporting bed bugs back to their homes. Lights Out kills bed bugs on contact and has a 30-day residual effect.

Once a bed bug problem is reported using the procedures set in place, measures must be taken to treat the bed bugs before they spread. There are several treatment methods that could be used in a correctional facility. Most likely, the best approach is integrated pest management, a combination of pest control methods. Let’s look at several treatment options and then work through how these bed bug treatment methods could work together to keep correctional facilities bed bug free.

Hiring a licensed pest control professional is probably the most common way that people think of to deal with a bed bug infestation. Professionals should be conducting thorough inspections to identify the extent of the infestation. They need to implement targeted treatment plans tailored to the facility’s needs. Treatment by professionals may include insecticide applications, heat treatments, or a combination of both. One drawback to insecticide applications is the risk of pesticide resistance. Pest professionals will need to utilize multiple types of pesticide over several applications to be sure that the bed bugs and their eggs all die.

Bed bug heat treatment is a method more pest control professionals have begun utilizing. What is truly great about heat treatment is that staff can be trained to perform the treatments without the assistance of a professional technician. This method offers a way to bring treatments in-house for immediate response when bed bugs are found and offers a way to save thousands of dollars over time as the bed bug heater continues to be utilized when cases arise. Additionally, heat treatment is 100% effective at killing bed bugs when the treatment is performed as instructed. There won’t be any concern of resistance or reactions to chemicals. All life stages of bed bugs, from eggs to adults, will die when they reach their thermal death point.

Vacuuming and steaming are two additional methods of treating bed bugs. These methods can help reduce the bed bug population by removing bed bugs and their eggs from the surface areas of beds, furniture, and cracks. High-powered vacuums with a HEPA filter are used to vacuum infested areas. A bed bug steamer can be used to go over beds and cracks and crevices methodically to kill the bed bugs the steam comes in contact with. These methods are not effective in totally eliminating a bed bug population and take a lot of time to implement. However, they can be used in conjunction with other methods to formulate an integrated bed bug management plan.

Integrated Pest Management is a holistic approach that combines the methods we discussed above with preventative measures and staff and inmate education to keep correctional facilities bed bug free. IPM emphasizes ongoing communication, collaborations, and proactive pest management practices to minimize reliance on chemical pesticides.

We want to emphasize again that training and education for both staff and inmates is a crucial part of keeping a correctional facility bed bug free. Providing comprehensive training on bed bug identification, prevention techniques, and reporting procedures will help detect infestations early and facilitate prompt treatment. It is important to maintain a hygienic living environment for the sake of the staff and inmates. No one deserves to have to live with the physical and mental trauma that bed bug infestations can bring. If your correctional facility needs personalized treatment advice or help with preventative measures, call our support professionals at 844-364-3281 today.