MIAMI COUNTY — According to the Indiana Department of Correction’s dashboard, 75 inmates at the Miami Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
Family members are still asking for clarity and raising concerns about how the prison is quarantining inmates.
A spokesperson for IDOC says the pandemic has been a challenge for everyone around the country, and they’re no exception. They say the health and safety of offenders and their staff is always their primary concern. But family members would like to be brought in too.
Mary Reynolds’s son is an inmate at the facility. She wants some answers about what’s going on inside the prison and says her anxiety is at an all-time high.
“Some positive inmates that have tested positive for the virus have been put back in the rooms with roommates who haven’t received their test results,” Reynolds said.
FOX59 received an audio clip from an inmate at the prison who said something similar.
“They’re forcing us to be in this gym with people who are testing positive for COVID right now.”
“Offenders who have had a positive test are being isolated from all other offenders. Offenders that are symptomatic are also being isolated from all other offenders,” said a spokesperson for IDOC.
“Prisons and jails are just the kind of situation that could allow this pandemic to spread horribly,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana Executive Director Jane Henegar.
Henagar says what’s allegedly happening at Miami Correctional Facility is something other jails and prisons are seeing too.
“Every person in this country is protected by the constitution, and there is a specific amendment, the eighth amendment, that requires government to attend to the health and wellbeing of those who are incarcerated,” Henagar explained.
She believes the government should require these facilities to be more transparent.
“Sometimes they will demonstrate they are doing everything that can be done, but we can’t know that if they’re not forthright with the public,” said Henegar.
Transparency is all Reynolds is asking for.
“Put us at ease, and bring our anxiety level down. Our loved ones are in there, and we can’t help them,” Reynolds said.
IDOC also says they’re providing all necessary needs for the men, inclusive of the opportunity to shower on a regular basis through the week. Family members were also concerned about the Wi-Fi being down. IDOC says it was down for less than 24 hours from last Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon.
FOX59 also asked questions regarding other concerns families of inmates had. Read IDOC’s responses below:
Question: Family members of inmates are concerned about the way the prison has decided to quarantine the 200-plus inmates. I’m told out of those 200, those who are positive and negative for the virus are being placed all in the gym. Why is that?
Response: Offenders who have had a positive test are being isolated from all other offenders. Offenders that are symptomatic are also being isolated from all other offenders. Weekday updates for each IDOC facility are available at this IDOC website page: https://www.in.gov/idoc/3780.htm
Question: Are you all doing anything special for inmates who have underlying health issues or are they just being placed in the quarantine area with the rest of the population?
Response: All offenders, whether positive for the virus, symptomatic or in general population, have access to medical services. Offenders with medical concerns that can’t be addressed in the infirmary receive necessary care at local hospitals.
Question: How is COVID-19 testing being conducted? Is every inmate at Miami Correctional being tested or is it their own decision to be tested? What way are you testing?
Response: An offender offered a test can decline to take the test. We are using the swab test. Staff are screened before every shift.
Question: There have also been complaints from family members about the feeding schedule during the pandemic for inmates. They claim inmates are having to wait long hours to eat during this pandemic. Is there a reason for the longer wait times for the feeding schedules?
Response: There has been no change to the meal schedule, though instead of eating in the dining area, offenders now have their meals in their cell. Delivering meals to each cell does take longer than eating in the dining area, but does maximize social distancing.
Question: For you all, how is it trying to run Miami Correctional during a health pandemic? Is it hard finding quarantine space? What extra cleaning efforts are being done?
Response: Operating a correctional facility always has unique aspects, of which the pandemic has added to the complexity, and we continue to adapt to fluid circumstances. All hard and high-touch surfaces are being cleaned on a continual rotation.
Question: What’s your message to family members of inmates who are concerned about the living conditions/procedures going on inside the prison at this time?
Response: The health and safety of offenders and staff is always our primary concern. We encourage family and friends of offenders to stay in touch by writing letters, and when available, to stay in touch through the offender tablets, phone calls and video calls. Encourage your loved one to wear their mask, wash hands frequently and social distance as best they can in a correctional environment. More information is available at this IDOC website page: https://www.in.gov/idoc/3755.htm