New fears in Virginia as COVID-19 is now behind bars

Coronavirus

There are new concerns about the coronavirus spreading through Virginia state prisons. This after three inmates, three Department of Corrections workers and a contractor tested positive for COVID-19.

The three inmates are all inside the Virginia Correctional Center For Women. The DOC employees include an officer in training at that same prison in Goochland, a correction’s officer at Indian Creek Correctional Center and a worker at the Norfolk Probation and Parole office. The infected contractor is a nurse at that correctional center for women in Goochland.

Lori Clemons-Ward tells our sister station WRIC in Richmond that she is very worried about her aunt who was treated on a daily basis by that nurse. Clemons-Ward says her aunt is currently behind bars for a non-violent crime. She says, “There are over 500 inmates at this facility that use the same telephone, same microwave in all common areas, these areas are not being disinfected. So, how do you practice social distancing at a place like this?”

Clemons-Ward say her aunt is over 60 years old and has underlying health conditions. The nurse who tested positive for COVID-19 administered her aunt’s medications. Yet, Clemons-Ward says no one has tested her aunt for the virus.  The state’s Public Safety Secretary Brian Moran says the prisons with confirmed cases are following the CDC’s guidelines for when there is a positive case. He says that dictates quarantine and contact investigations to determine other possible infections. Clemons-Ward says her aunt has been was moved to another location but she’s not truly isolated. She tells us, “My aunt has been placed in quarantine. Quarantine is located in the basement, the basement has no ventilation, no heat, if she stretches her hand out from her bunk, she can reach the next person in the bunk. How do you practice social distancing?”

The Department of Corrections says all prisons in the commonwealth are on modified lockdown to minimize contact between inmates. Clemons- Ward wishes her the system would let her aunt out early. She claimed she has been a model inmate, has a home care plan and is scheduled to be released in the next two to three years. State leaders did say they planned to release some low-level offenders on home monitoring to prevent the spread of the virus. Secretary Moran confirmed today that 96 low level offenders were released in March on parole. He says that is a 153% increase over the previous month. The state’s prison population consists of more 29,000.

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