The Danville city jail has been dealing with a Covid-19 outbreak over the past week and a half. The narrative has been that while the outbreak has spread rapidly throughout the jail it’s only resulted in mild symptoms for those who are infected. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the staff has not been required to wear masks while inside the facility. It was only a few days ago when a mask mandate was finally put into place. The city sheriff has stated in interviews that they have been able to avoid an outbreak over the past 7 months without needing to wear a mask. There is no way to prove that since there is no evidence of inmates or staff being tested on a regular basis prior to this current outbreak.
As with every story, there is another side, and I believe that it is extremely important to hear the experiences of those currently on the inside dealing with this outbreak. I’m going to bring you the stories of individuals who are currently inside of the Danville City jail suffering from Covid-19. My hope is that hearing their stories will shine a light on what is happening inside of the jail.
Individual 1 starts by describing their symptoms and challenging the downplaying of them in the media. They, like many of the other people in the jail, are suffering from high fever, vomiting, chills. For some, the symptoms can change every thirty seconds at times. They have had trouble breathing for a number of days and their symptoms are not being taken seriously. They describe how jail staff would tell inmates that “they don’t do masks if you get it you get it, it’s in the air, and we don’t do masks.”
Individual 2 talks about not being able to get their mask, they even had one of theirs thrown away. They describe being put into an area with inmates who were not sick even though they told staff that they had Covid-19 symptoms. All of those inmates soon got infected with Covid-19. They describe being threatened by jail staff for speaking up, and that there were never any attempts to keep people safe. They also paint a grim picture of the available health care services inside of the jail.
Individuals 3 and 4 describe not being able to get temperature readings, mainly because the staff did not know how to do it correctly. They often had to beg for masks for hours. There was a major concern among kitchen staff being forced to work, even though most of them had fevers and other Covid-19 symptoms. One of the inmates even tried to blow the whistle to the Departments of Corrections but was never allowed to make contact with authorities outside of the jail.
This audio presents a drastically different situation that’s been happening inside of the Danville City jail during this outbreak. A common theme from all of these conversations is that masks were never worn by staff because those in charge never made them. Also, inmates that wanted to get access to masks were constantly denied. There was a lack of medical staff, and that their symptoms were not being taken seriously.
These stories should make any jail operating the same way change their behavior immediately. These people may be serving time, but they are still human beings who have families that care about them. Paying their debts to society should not be a death sentence. It's been clear for months that safety guidelines also apply to the Department of Corrections. The Danville City Jail doesn't have some kind of special immunity. One would think that the city jail would have higher health and safety standards than a fast-food restaurant. I know of elder care facilities that are testing staff twice a week, everyone is wearing masks, and their safety measures have helped reduce the spread and save lives.
Everything that has been described is a local problem. No correctional facility that has followed WHO and CDC guidelines to lessen the risk of Covid-19 is having an outbreak like this. It also highlights everything that is wrong with our criminal justice system. For decades we’ve over incarcerated and painted inmates as being less than human beings. Too many are locked away for non-violent offenses, and many more are stuck in jail only because they are too poor to make bail. Yes, there are people in jail that did crimes and are paying their debts to society. They also deserve to be safe while doing so, especially when they are literally begging for masks and PPE to keep themselves and their friends inside safe.
This outbreak was preventable, and we can only hope that no one ends up suffering from Covid-19 long term or dying.
Written by Eric Stamps