ESU is a safe alternative for inmates and mental health patients, providing a humane alternative to eating with fingers.
— CSP-SAC prison authorities in Folsom, California

Are US Jails and Prisons Destined to Become Epicenters of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

April 14, 2020    /    by: New York Times, March 16, 2020    /    News

According Dr. Amanda Klonsky, a leader of a prison education organization, US jails and prisons provide the perfect environment for the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.

Dr. Klonsky outlines the risk to both inmates and those working inside the prisons in her March 16, 2020 opinion piece in the New York Times.

“If you think a cruise ship is a dangerous place to be during a pandemic, consider America’s jails and prisons. The new coronavirus spreads at its quickest in closed environments. And places like nursing homes in affected areas have begun to take precautions at the behest of families and experts. As this new disease spreads, it has become equally important for all of us to ask what steps are being taken to protect the health of people in jails and prisons, and the staff who work in them.

The American criminal legal system holds almost 2.3 million people in prisons, jails, detention centers and psychiatric hospitals. And they do not live under quarantine: jails experience a daily influx of correctional staff, vendors, health care workers, educators and visitors — all of whom carry viral conditions at the prison back to their homes and communities and return the next day packing the germs from back home. How will we prevent incarcerated people and those who work in these institutions from becoming ill and spreading the virus?”

Prisons and especially jails due to the constant cycle of their population, are high-risk environments for infectious spread of COVID-19. Mitigating the spread amongst the inmates and staff is a top line issue for wardens, correctional officers, and healthcare workers. Inmates are often sicker than the general population and can have a higher rate of infectious illnesses than the non-incarcerated population.

“We should recall that we have 5,000 jails and prisons full of people with high rates of health problems, and where health services are often inadequate and disconnected from the community systems directing the coronavirus response,” said Dr. Homer Venters, former chief medical officer of the New York City jail system. “Coronavirus in these settings will dramatically increase the epidemic curve, not flatten it, and disproportionately for people of color.”

Can a safe disposable utensil help correctional facilities control the spread of COVID-19 at meal time?

Already a proven safety utensil for correctional, psychiatric and security facilities, the EcoSecurity® Utensil (ESU) makes sense as a safe eating utensil for your COVID-19 challenges. The sturdy, U.S. made paperboard utensils can safely be used during lockdown and quarantine, and disposed of in the trash with meal waste, thus reducing the spread of viral matter. Increased agitation from lockdown can increase in the need for a utensil that can’t be used for harm to self or others. 

How the disposable ESU assists in preventing the spread of COVID-19:

  • As recommended by the CDC for quarantine within prisons, all remnants of a meal should go into a lined trash receptacle kept within the isolation area. The ESU can go right into the trash, preventing staff or others from handling contaminated material
  • Numerous states and facilities are requiring or advising use of disposable flatware for COVID-19, ESU is the safest disposable; used by hundreds of facilities across the Country (See our map).
  • Cannot be used for harm to self or others, particularly for the in-cell meals when inmates are more stressed and/or agitated due to fears of infection
  • In cases of isolation, the ESU allows for Satellite Meal Service to include mitigate the harms caused by these restrictions
  • For states requiring use of disposable eating utensils for COVID-19, ESU is the safest disposable utensil used by hundreds of correctional facilities across the country
  • Can easily be included in pre-made bag or boxed meals for in-cell distribution, allowing for options other than finger foods for extended lockdown periods.
  • Comes stacked all facing one direction, a stack can be easily inserted into a vessel handle side up, to meet BOP sanitation requirements that self-serve utensils be “dispensed so that contamination of food and lip-contact surfaces is prevented”.



ESU is the trusted, safest utensil for at risk populations, as always:

  • A SAFE, SANITARY, and DISPOSABLE utensil made in the USA

  • Trusted by hundreds of correctional facilities across the US and Canada

  • Ideal for suicide watch, mental heath wards, and SHU.

  • Includes perforation for quicker breakdown if ingested or flushed

  • Allows for alternatives to finger food menus

A benefit of using the ESU along with all disposable food containers is that staff does not need to handle potentially highly contaminated flatware. All remnants of the meal can go into trash within the isolation area.




According to the Federal BOP Food Service Manual, Self-service utensils “are handled, displayed, and dispensed so that contamination of food and lip-contact surfaces is prevented”. ESU comes stacked all facing one direction, and can be easily inserted into a vessel handle side up in, to meet these requirements.

Find out which US correctional facilities are already using the ESU.

EcoSecurity Utensil in use by state_ US Map


Request free samples of the ESU for your correctional facility or psychiatric hospital.

ESU in the News



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