Living in the Outbreak: Stories from inside of the Danville City Jail

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

10/11/2020

3 thoughts on “Living in the Outbreak: Stories from inside of the Danville City Jail”

  1. This is exactly how a few cases becomes a pandemic. Horrible! This endangers guards, prisoners, and staff alike. Everyone deserves better.

  2. I am glad, so glad you wrote this for the public to know and to see. This year has really open my eyes. I have copied this and screen shot this as well. Thank you for sharing this. I have heard others stories as well as they have been released. After speaking with some other officials and knowing that the early release program was not utilized; the inmates were “furloughed” not released- the ACLU should have inspected further. Prior to the testing I contacted the VADOC because I wanted to know the protocol for the early release due to Covid. The person that I inquired to did let me know the difference. He was not state so I had to contact the jail administrators. My sibling had not been tested and did not call for a couple of days. He was in sick bay. I just lost two other family members who was in there. One for delinquency in child support payment and the other for parole violation. I have also lost two siblings recently. They told me he had been tested and he had not. The ADC I had contacted, told me that he had been tested when he came and just the other day. I have not had a chance to talk to my brother yet. It has been three weeks. I am scared. Not only did the case he have not make any sense. But his lawyer, after directing me to contacting the VADOC and them letting Official A know my concern while tagging the DCJ, and two other persons prior to all the tests being administered; has not returned any phone calls. I have went to the office and spoke to their assistant, no return calls there either. As others report the same issues and this is a paid lawyer. I have went to the Official B’s office about my property that I did not receive a summons about that she stated we received a summons. (An official from Richmond made contact to inform me that a summons was supposed to be provided for a hearing for myself or sibling to prove that the property was ours). As well as the two years that went by, the record that I requested from the actual police records in the police records they had no account of it from Official C. To top it all off, the officer who did all of this is now a corporal. I just want to make sure my sibling is safe. My sibling is classified as a non violent offender, less than a year, I do have all the documentation that was left, and nothing adds up. I have verifiable proof that my property was my property. If any of them want to speak to me- they all know who I am. I have left multiple messages, my addresses, and telephone number has not changed. Good luck to you sir and hopefully everyone else on this planet will recognize that others are human as well.

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