Coronavirus. We’re all dealing with it in one way or another.
For most of us, it requires us to work from home, or maybe you’ve even lost your job over it. It hasn’t been easy for anyone and no one is safe.
Regardless of your situation, there is a population of roughly 2.3 million people who are being severely mistreated and you’re most likely not hearing about it.
We want to change that.
Here at Prison Insight, it’s our goal to make sure that those who are in prison are being treated appropriately while they are incarcerated. Because even though inmates have made a mistakes, they’re still people that are deserving of basic human rights. With that being our core goal, we began to wonder exactly how inmates are being treated while COVID-19 wreaks havoc on our society. Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy task. It’s not like we can simply call a few inmates to get their opinion because that isn’t enough data.
Knowing this, we enlisted the community we’ve established through our website of friends/family that have loved ones incarcerated to create a qualitative study to learn exactly what inmates are seeing. Not surprisingly, the results weren’t good. In fact, of the responses that we included, only one response seems to praise the prison administration for the way that they are handling this health crisis.
Below you can read all of the responses that have only been edited for grammar/punctuation.
Please note, we’ve kept the identities of those who responded confidential to keep them safe from any type of retaliation from the facility where they’re incarcerated.
How Are Prisons (Really) Handling Coronavirus?
Arizona – Arizona State Prison Complex – Yuma
My husband is in the La Paz unit. I last spoke with him on Monday March 30. Although the La Paz web page posted updates every couple days and has stated that inmates are receiving free soap, and cleaning supplies for regular deep cleaning, he stated that he’s gotten 1 bar of soap and is concerned about being able to get any more because he asked for another 1 several days later so he wouldn’t be completely out of soap and has yet to receive it. I asked what cleaning supplies they supplied them with for deep cleaning and he told me they haven’t gotten any. When I told him the web page stated that the prison was dispersing supplies for regular deep cleaning to prevent any spread he just laughed and said..”No babe, that’s not happening, there’s no cleaning supplies and no deep cleaning going on in here. They are not telling us much about this virus other than our visitations are suspended and we get free calls depending on our phase. There’s a ton of rumors about people dying and prisoners being let out…we don’t know anything from the prison itself. ” I try to keep him updated as much as possible on what the web page says…like the fact that there have been 29 prisoners tested that came back neg. And 5 or 6 that are pending with no positive tests yet in any prison in AA, but obviously they are lying about giving our loved ones cleaning supplies, so who knows what the truth is!
Arizona – Central Arizona Correctional Facility
I have only received two very small bars of soap since this started. We have not gotten any bleach or cleaning supplies and are mocked when we mention COVID-19. No other supplies have been handed out and even CO’s aren’t wearing gloves. There is a flyer about COVID-19 but it’s very vague and it’s on a poster board in the pod. As of now, they give us two rolls of toilet paper every Wednesday. The only distancing taking place is that CO’s try to stay at least six feet away, but prisoners are all thrown together. They still serve food in the pod.
California – California State Prison – Corcoran
My son is in lock down every other day, but says soon he will go in lock down for two months. That is cruel. They should let those who aren’t dangerous out on parole. But the parole board is not working because of the virus. It’s impossible for the virus to not get in and once it does, it will be chaotic and deadly. The time to act is before it is too late. The ACLU is trying to raise consciousness about the situation of the incarcerated population in this emergency.
California – Federal Correctional Institution – Dublin (Federal)
My relative is at Dublin FCI. They just moved everyone from the Camp into the FCI. In other words, they have increased the crowding rather than making any attempt at social distancing. The AW told them not to get sick, because if they did, they were “SOL”. He said there would be no meds, and no one would be going to the hospital. I didn’t know until just reading on your site that the cells were originally designed for one person. My relative shares a three-person cell. The bunks are so close together you have to walk sideways between them. Three beds, a sink, and a toilet. No desk, no chair. And they’re about to be confined to their cells for most of the day and night for God knows how long!
California – Federal Correctional Complex – Lompoc (Federal)
They are currently locked down. They’re only allowed out of their cells for 1 hour a day.
California – Mule Creek State Prison
All groups like AA are suspended and all classes are closed. Just one building is out in the yard by themselves at a time. Steps have been taken to avoid contact.
California – Wasco State Prison
I spoke with my son today and these are the things he told me they have done/are doing during this Coronavirus outbreak. To limit contact with people from outside the prison, they have cancelled the classes inmates were involved in. In an effort to allow more “social distancing” they; 1) Adjusted the yard schedule so that everyone from all the buildings aren’t on the yard at the same time like they usually were. Instead, inmates from only one building at time are allowed on the yard. This means he only gets yard access twice a week now instead of every day. 2) Are limiting the number of people who can be in the day rooms at the same time.
They have divided the times the day room is available so that one tier of inmates have access to the day room in the morning, and the other tier gets access in the afternoon. He also pointed out that even though they have made some attempts to keep people more spread apart, everyone is still all going to chow at the same time, so everyone is still all together at least 3 times a day. He didn’t think the changes were likely to help much, especially considering the chow situation. And the downside is everyone is now spending more time confined to their cells.
Colorado – Arrowhead Correctional Center
My grandson is in Arrowhead located in Canon City, Colorado. He reported that one prisoner is being held in isolation, otherwise everyone is good there (health wise) so far.
Colorado – Federal Correctional Complex – Florence (Federal)
My husband just had to self surrender on Thursday March 26th. Mind you he just had major surgery 2 weeks ago and needs more. His immune system is weakened and his judge refused to give him a 30 day stay to help his immune system strengthen. If he catches the coronavirus it could be a death sentence.
Here is what we witnessed dropping him off. They had a bus stationed at the entrance with someone in a “paper” outfit who took the temperature of each staff member entering the compound. That was it. If they didn’t have a fever right then, they were allowed to report to work.
They took my husband, had him put on a mask and told me he would be put in a quarantine unit with other newly arrived inmates for 2 weeks. That they most likely would not have access to the phone or email.
Colorado – Federal Correctional Complex – Florence (Federal)
My fiance is in Florence CO and they have locked down every prisoner in their cells and are only letting them out for 90 minutes every three days! No outside fresh air, no cleaning supplies, and no free soap! They were told the prison staff would like them to up their hygiene and daily cleaning rituals, however, they were only allowed out to shower once every 3 days have not been given any free supplies.
Not a single guard or inmate has been given any bleach or cleaning products stronger than what they use on the regular basis to clean with. They were denied commissary for 2 weeks. Half of the units got to go to commissary on March 30th before they locked everybody down on April 1st, but my fiance was not one of the lucky ones. Now they are saying that they will get a $50 spending limit for commissary and that it will be delivered to their door, but they are not allowing them to buy junk food, a few ramen noodles, and a very limited amount of meat. No pop, no chips, they’re even limiting the amount of coffee you can buy!
They’re not treating this like a pandemic they’re treating it like punitive punishment. This is one of the all-time worst prisons in the system. My fiance has points to go to a low prison, but cannot be moved due to covid 19. I am a critical care nurse on the front lines of this pandemic. I am aware, more than most, of how important personal hygiene and social distancing is.
But this facility is not doing anything to help stop the spread of the pandemic. They’re essentially lazy and don’t want to have to deal with people they deem not worthy of their time. If there is an outbreak, this facility will suffer greatly because there are no precautions being taken at all. Social distancing and good hygiene doesn’t mean being cooped in a cell with one person that you can never be more than 3 ft away from, living in a bathroom with no fresh air, and only being allowed to shower and contact your family once every 3 days. The treatment is appalling.
Florida – Federal Correctional Complex – Coleman (Federal)
They had a legionella outbreak in that facility at the beginning of the year and most of those infected received subpar treatment to say the least. It terrifies me that all of those ladies are sitting ducks now with the COVID19 virus. I think that home confinement should be considered for the elderly as well as the minimum and low risk inmates. At least it will empty the facility because social distancing is not taking place in prison camps or any prison whatsoever.
Florida – Gadsden Correctional Facility
In Gadsden, it’s 30 women to a pod with no hand sanitizer and no bleach. They are kept separate from the other pods except the guards, which can potentially bring the virus in. They have been in lockdown now for over a week and are waiting till further notice. They are eating hotdogs with no soap to wash their hands and they are running out of everything. It’s going to be a horrible mess in Gadsden if this gets in.
Florida – Gadsden Correctional Facility
Each pod is on lockdown but what good does it do if the guards and others go inside each pod themselves? They have no extra cleaning supplies and only wipe down eating tables after each pod eats. The conditions are a recipe for a major disaster. Someone needs to take action.
Florida – Liberty Correctional Institution
So far, no social distancing. No guards with any personal protection equipment. Also, no rec time.
Florida – Northwest Florida Reception Center Annex
My son is in prison in FL I speak to him everyday. As of today he is not aware of anyone having the virus but there is no distancing no cleaning in place to prevent the virus if it is present.
Florida – Santa Rosa Correctional Institution
I was told so far that there have been two inmates infected with the virus and it hasn’t been posted on their website. They have they given the inmates nothing to keep them safe, they’re not even washing down the dorms.
Florida – South Florida Reception Center
My loved one told me they aren’t practicing social distancing here at all. They’re eating with as many as 4 to a table with many inmates on the wreck yard at one time. They were informed that there are sick inmates there. Two so far. But he’s scared because they’re unorganized and not following government official rules and regulations to stay safe.
Florida – Walton Correctional Institution
My brother is at Walton. He has a tablet so he is able to email me without going to the kiosk. He said they have put them in lock down, so of course, no canteen, no kiosk, no recreation etc… That’s about all they’ve done and they just did that, so all this time they’ve been free to move about and no precautionary measures prior to that. So I’m extremely worried as all the other family members are with our loved one being incarcerated. This is just awful.
Georgia – United States Penitentiary – Atlanta (Federal)
Fortunately he is in the shu, or the hole. Fortunately because he is not in the general population and it is reported that at least one correctional officer and three inmates have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. There is no commissary so whatever your loved one had stored is all they are going to get for a while. I am still able to send books, but I’m sure that will end soon too. Facility is on lock-down like all are now. So far letters are sill getting through. That’s all I know for know.
Iowa – Clarinda Correctional Facility
I have spoken to my son and soap and water is the only thing offered to the inmates. No hand sanitizer at all. The prisons are a Petri dish. Everyone will be infected with this virus including employees.
Idaho – Idaho State Correctional Center
My son in ISCC was finally able to call! He said they’re on lockdown and only out of cell 30 mins a day. They’ve told them no one is sick so far and they’re testing everyone new who comes in. They haven’t increased cleaning protocols that he knows of
Illinois – Federal Correctional Institution – Greenville (Federal)
I am not sure if this is happening nationwide – but they are now quarantining the incoming inmates — here at greenville — (they did not quarantine me – I was one of the last ones in but started the practice yesterday)
They brought in a young woman yesterday who is 8 months pregnant and put her in the “suicide room” – which is the only area they have to quarantine a single person – it will be for 14 days.
They are wearing masks to feed her — and meanwhile trying to deal with our population. They don’t seem to know what they would do if there was an exposure or positive test. We are not being tested, and no one is currently sick other than some sore throats/respiratory issues – I’m feeling ok at this point – but overall, the sanitation conditions are not good considering the circumstances.
They are trying to curb outsider staff and teachers, vendors – and now finally screening them — today they powerwashed the showers and got clogged sinks working again. We are also now being enlisted to clean our own floors, surfaces – everything with a watered down pink soap they gave us – but no alcohol in it (so no one drinks it, I guess). We also asked staff for paper towels to wipe down areas, but have not been supplied with any yet. Just old damp dirty rags that they lay on the countertops.
Illinois – Greene County Work Camp
My son is in a work camp and they emptied half of the camp and put all the inmates into the other half all together. Now they are crowded together instead of trying to keep a distance between them. Everyone is now more at risk.
Illinois – United States Penitentiary – Marion (Federal)
They’re moving him around quite a bit and provide nothing to help with the spread of germs. No masks or anything like that have been given. I’ve emailed the warden about a compassionate release and gotten no response…someone at Louisiana facility died today from coronavirus and the scary part is, the system didn’t stop movement from other prisons when they were told to.
Illinois – Vandalia Correctional Center
On the Illinois Department of Correction website, it says they were giving inmates hand sanitizer. My loved one says they have signs up for hand sanitizing stations but they have not received any and there isn’t any at the stations. He says he can buy it, but it’s very limited. My thing is, what if others don’t have the money on their books to buy any? He said he added water to make it stretch but I informed him that it has to be at least 60% Alcohol to be effective.
Indiana – Indiana State Prison
My son is at the Indiana state prison and he said that they are doing a great job at trying to keep them safe! He just was moved there from Westville Correctional center and I am so happy he was moved before all of this happened.
Indiana – Westville Correctional Facility
My friend has a son that’s still at Westville Correctional Center and they aren’t doing anything to keep the inmates safe.
But the COs there abuse and treat inmates horribly, so I guess that isn’t a surprise. Westville has some of the most corrupt Correctional officers I have ever seen. If you get sent there for level one, you are removed and placed inside but never get wrote up. While inside, the COs will make up things to put you in the hole and make sure you lose your good time. It has happened to so many that I have talked to.
It is really sad that my friends son was due to be released in April and my son was due to be released in September of this year, but now my son won’t be released until next April 2021 and my friends son won’t be released until July of this year right now unless they find another way to hold him back some more. If you have any medical issues they will refuse to help you!
My son had kidney stones really bad when he was in seg there and had one lodged and was in severe pain and was asking to see the nurse and when they ignored him, he called me and asked if I would please call someone there to help him but I was told by the COs that they were working and that I needed to call administration the next day to talk to someone.
The COs never did check on my son, but thank God he did finally pass it the next day. He went from having no problems at Miami Correctional Facility to the level one at Westville and within 10 months at Westville he was at a level 3 and thank heaven he was moved out of that horrible place!
Kentucky – United States Penitentiary – McCreary (Federal)
My son wrote me a letter and he is supposed to be in a medical facility but they have not complied and he is high risk. My son has Sickle Cell Anemia and has had no medical treatment since he’s been there . They have abused and beaten my son as well. This place is horrible and needs to be investigated by high authorities because the staff and officials are corrupt.
Maine – Maine State Prison
I talked to my brother at Maine state prison. He said someone showed up with the virus and they were sanitizing some cells, but so far that’s it.
Missouri – Boonville Correctional Center
The only thing that they’ve done in regards to the coronavirus is to eliminate inmate guest visits for the next 30 days at least, or until they see fit. My significant other is in the going-home house as they call it and he’ll be released in the next couple months. I worry that he will get sick or something will happen between now and then. With it being such a short time, I’m hoping that they’ll do an early release but I don’t really think they will.
North Carolina – Federal Correctional Complex – Butner (Federal)
My son has three months left, he’s only in there for a probation violation. They don’t have any hand sanitizer or soap and they’re not doing anything for them. They’re currently 15 to a pod and they have them all locked down like that . I don’t understand why they’re not letting any of them out on some kind of compassionate release. As far as he knows, no one has left so far.
North Carolina – Federal Correctional Complex – Butner (Federal)
He said the virus is there and they have moved them to lockdown. That’s it. No sanitizer, no soap, no masks! They are not informing them of any precautions to take either. He is in a pod with 15 other inmates.
Ohio – Federal Correctional Institution – Elkton (Federal)
When we spoke with my loved one on Sunday, March 22, as far as he knew, no one was showing signs of illness. However, when he called us on Friday, March 27, he reported that many inmates had fallen ill. The earliest cases had been isolated by sending them to the Special Housing Unit (SHU) which is solitary confinement, however, by Friday, March 27 the number of inmates with illness had exceeded the capacity of the SHU facilities.
They have approximately 450 inmates housed in 4 regular housing units, each with 100+ men. Since the SHU has been overrun, they have cleared one of the 4 housing units of inmates without symptoms of illness by moving their bunks into the other 3 housing units, and are now housing all of the inmates with symptoms in the 4th housing unit. As of today, March 29th, he reports that his housing unit now holds ~140 men. Presumably the other 2 regular units now hold ~140 men each as well.
He reports that inmates are being checked for fever daily, but he does not know what symptoms would result in an inmate being moved to the ‘quarantined’ unit. During our March 27th call, he noted that his bunkmate has visibly looked ill for at least 2 days and has been showing signs of chills (sleeping with his winter coat on and using any available blankets) but has so far ‘passed’ the fever checks and is still in the general unit. As of March 29th, his bunkmate still remained in the general unit as well. During this call he also reported that ~5 men have been removed from his unit each day during the fever checks. We assume they are being sent to the quarantine unit. They have no official cases of COVID-19, but as far as he knows, no one has actually been tested so that is misleading at best. To his knowledge, by March 27th, 2 inmates in their 60s had been taken to the hospital for severe illness. In our March 29th call he reported the 1-2 more older inmates had also been taken to the hospital.
Recreation access has been shut down (as well as visitation, of course) and inmates are required to stay in the unit except for meals. They are rotating inmates through the dining hall by unit (so groups of ~140) and meal times have been shortened. In the unit they are still in a ‘gymnasium’ full of bunk beds with the bunks separated by 5’ high divider walls into areas of 2-4 men (maybe more with the influx of men from unit 4) with access to the TV room (holds groups of ~30 people) and a few smaller rooms (holds ~10 people). Social distancing is not an option.
Access to the commissary has been curtailed so the inmates have limited access to mailing supplies and stamps, cleaning supplies, toiletries, OTC medication, packaged food etc. Many are running low on basic necessities for showering and doing laundry as well as medications such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen.
Oregon – Federal Correctional Institution – Sheridan (Federal)
My fiancé is in federal prison in Sheridan Oregon and during this pandemic they are on an all day lock down and only get 1 to 2 hours of out time. And they’re not sanitizing at all.
Pennsylvania – Federal Correctional Complex – Allenwood (Federal)
My bf just got in the hole and said that he heard they don’t know if they are gonna still have commissary in a week and that the visits are suspended for 30 days and end on the April 13. But, he said it may be longer, I hope not!
Pennsylvania – Federal Correctional Institution – Loretto
My son is located here and was told that there is a person who just self surrendered who is sick and being tested for the Covid-19 in the SAME building! I am sick. They are sharing little details besides that. The prison is on a soft lockdown. To my son’s knowledge, there have been no inmates released. They are not providing hand sanitizer or any additional cleaning supplies.
Texas – Federal Correctional Institution – Big Spring (Federal)
My father is being admitted on Tues. March 31st. He did mention that he will be in quarantine for 15 days when first admitted. I am very concerned about how he will be treated and dealt with when it comes to his physical health. He is almost 74 yrs old going in for non-violent crime.
Illinois – Clinton County Jail
My husband is currently housed in Federal Holding in a local county jail. He is awaiting trial. I have spoken to him daily and asked about their current situations due to the virus as well as their precautionary measures. He has indicated that not many new inmates are arriving but those that have are being put in isolation for two days then released into cells with other inmates. Last week, an inmate in his cell fell down but it was not seen by a nurse and didn’t even get his temperature taken. This week my husband became ill and requested to see a nurse and still has not. While he doesn’t believe it to be the COVID-19, he still thinks they should have addressed the issue. His temperature has not been taken, nor has he seen a medical professional. The guards responses have simply been telling them to remain calm, don’t watch so much tv, and don’t cause a disruption.
He says they have also stated that things aren’t as bad as they seem and if they continue to harp on the issue they will lose privileges or go on lockdown. The court system here is still holding proceedings and inmates are transported to and from the courthouse. This county is quite small and we already have 5 confirmed cases within county lines. However, so far no inmates have been tested, but also there haven’t been any serious illnesses shown…yet.
LOCATION NOT AVAILABLE
I have spoken with my husband, he said that they have each unit separated right now and they are not allowed to have uncontrolled movements. They are only allowed to get four meals at a time, one unit at a time, and they call them down separately. He said that they are cleaning the room after every unit has been in there. They’re only allowed to leave their unit once a week with controlled movements to go to the commissary. They are not allowed to use the common areas outside of their unit and if there is someone that is sick, they would immediately remove them and take them to the sick housing unit.