‘Something Is Going to Explode’: When Coronavirus Strikes a Prison

Ronald Morris: The administration screwed up. These inmates were over the Covid-19 virus, but they weren’t supposed to be released back out there yet, and so when they realized this, they went back an hour and a half later and grabbed ’em and put them back in the isolation unit. And when they did that, that freaked those inmates out because they’re scared of getting this [expletive], and they thought they’d just released the virus into that unit and contaminated them. The problem was, they didn’t educate the inmates on what’s going on. It’s basic corrections 101, communicating with the inmate population. Go down there and town hall them and educate them. They didn’t do that — they kicked ’em out and then jerked them back up, and you think, Oh, hell, they just brought an infected person down here, and now we’re all going to get this [expletive].

Don Cain, via email: I know one thing is, if I do pass, my family has one heck of a suit.

On April 17, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman responded to a detailed request for comment with a statement: “We want to point out that following a recent visit to F.C.C. Oakdale, the C.D.C. and the Louisiana Office of Public Health commended F.C.C. Oakdale staff and confirmed their compliance with current C.D.C. guidance for Covid management in correctional facilities. We direct you to our public website for detailed information about how the B.O.P. is taking aggressive steps to mitigate the spread of Covid in all of our facilities, including F.C.C. Oakdale.”

Ronald Morris, via text, April 10: Another inmate death — six. Positive inmates: 49. Positive staff: 26.

Correctional Officer 1: You don’t know. This could be the day that you have a temperature. Or this is going to be the day that you come in contact with somebody that’s going to get you sick. Every day when I come home kind of starts my 14 days over, where I can’t have contact with my family. It’s weighing on my wife, and it’s weighing on me. I’m starting to become a little withdrawn and short. I know that my stress rubs on to her and then rubs off to the kids. And it’s not just us. I’m sure it’s the health care providers, I’m sure it’s the local parish and state law enforcement, federal law enforcement, firefighters. I mean, we all probably feel the exact same way. We have no choice.

Mayor Paul: We don’t have a morgue at the Oakdale hospital. They have run in a portable morgue. It’s an 18-wheeler on the loading dock. I understand it is for all the surrounding hospitals if needed.

Correctional Officer 2: We’re still releasing inmates if it’s time for them to be released. When they’re going to leave here, they’re going to get on a Greyhound bus, probably change two or three different buses. One’s going, let’s say, to Houston, one is going to Georgia; we send inmates all over the United States. We send inmates to Puerto Rico. We send inmates everywhere. I have brought up that if we know that they’re getting out, then why are we not putting them in quarantine? Because an inmate could not have a fever 12 hours before he leaves, get on a plane or a bus, and as soon as he gets home, he tests positive. Well, then he’s contaminated all those people.