Group Calls For Change In State Prisons Citing COVID-19 'Hotspots'


Friday, September 18th 2020, 10:25 pm
By: Bonnie Campo


OKLAHOMA CITY -

According to data released by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, as of Friday there are 900 inmates currently positive with COVID-19.

That total is about 4% of the prison, as reported by ODOC, and five inmates have died.

The cumulative positives have been reported as 2521.

The Department of Corrections reported five inmates have died possibly due to COVID-19.

A rally was held Friday at the state Capitol to stop the spread behind bars, specifically at the Eddie Warrior facility in Taft, Oklahoma.

Protesters shouted for immediate action from the government to protect inmates.

They also said they need long-term change.

“We are demanding the governor and board of corrections take some steps immediately, and declare a state of emergency,” said Former State Senator Connie Johnson.

Speakers said issues include proper hygiene, communication with family members, nutrition, and a lack of containment of the virus.

Protestors said these problems have existed for years but are exacerbated by the pandemic.

Johnson and others called for better testing of staff and inmates, and if changes can't be made, they want their family members released.

One mother said her daughter Mkhyla Brown, who is on robbery charges, is COVID positive.

Mkhyla suffers with mental health issues, but her family said now she can't get access to care.

“Put an ankle monitor on her. I will quarantine her in my house. I will take care of her properly and she can get back well,” said her mother, Pamela Brown.

DOC reports a facility or unit is automatically designated a hotspot when at least 20% of inmates test positive within a celled housing unit or at least 15% of inmates test positive within an open bay housing unit.

At that point, they cease visitation, test all inmates in the hotspot area, quarantining/isolating those positive and those exposed, moving staff work locations to other areas of the facility, and providing additional PPE kits for staff.

Eddie Warrior reports 58 positive cases and 723 recovered inmates.

Justice reform advocates are skeptical of the numbers and said everyday these inmates are locked up is another day they are potentially exposed to COVID-19.

Those at the rally said they plan on filing a lawsuit to spur change.

Read Also: ‘I Take This Personally’: DOC Director Expects More COVID-19 Outbreaks Inside Oklahoma Prisons