Keeping our prisons supplied

By Dana Simas, Public Information Officer

Imagine a California state prison doctor dressing an inmate’s wound: He reaches for an alcohol pad to sterilize the wound, but he can’t find any. He reaches for gauze, yet again, he can’t find any. Making sure even the smallest items are available is a mission-critical job, and it’s the job of Nancy Harris, Material Storeroom Supervisor at Folsom State Prison (FSP), to ensure they’re available.

Beginning her week, Harris checks her messages to see if any emergency supply deliveries need to be made around the institution after the weekend. Once any deliveries are made Harris counts existing supplies and venturing into the world of Business Information Services (BIS) to restock, which takes at least a week to complete.

She’s in charge of ordering medical supplies from bandages, syringes, elastic bandages, braces, trays, scissors, disinfectant wipes, and suture removers to medical equipment, such as electrocardiograms (EKGs), continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, and vital sign machines.

Making sure the sensitive and potentially dangerous supplies are kept secure, Harris is the only one with access to this storage facility.

Nancy Harris April 2013 006

Nancy Harris, Material Storeroom Supervisor at Folsom State Prison.

Harris is also handling the medical supply orders for the Folsom Women’s Facility, which had its first inmates arrive in February.

“It’s a bit of a challenge because now I order supplies that I have never ordered before because they are female-specific, whereas Folsom is a male inmate prison,” Harris said.

Up until four years ago, Harris knew very little about medical supplies. She was a professional cook before switching careers, but her ability to learn quickly and unabashed questions helped her earn the respect of her peers.

“She is like one of the unsung heroes at FSP,” said Jean Dodge, Medical Staff Assistant at FSP.

Supplies, in general, can often be taken for granted as being available. However, when crucial medical supplies are unavailable, it can be a very big problem. The Material Storeroom Supervisor is critical to ensuring doctors and nurses can continue to do their jobs, it’s important that the person in that position is dedicated and reliable.

“I do my absolute best to get (the doctors and nurses) what they need,” Harris said. “I’ve built a good rapport with them, and I work hard keep it that way.”