TAFT, Okla. — Families of inmates held another protest outside the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft on Friday afternoon.
The women’s prison is battling a COVID-19 outbreak. More than 700 inmates have tested positive at the center. This week, an inmate died in the hospital possibly related to COVID-19.
“Our state officials must take this serious because one girl dead is one girl too many," said Pamela Smith, who was at the protest.
Elizabeth Young’s sister is currently an inmate and tested positive for COVID-19. She said her sister tells her the inmates are packed into their rooms and the cafeteria isn’t cleaned in between meals.
“They need medical help," Young said. "They need to be separated. All they’re going to do is reinfect them the way it is right now. They really need some type of different facility to take these girls to at this point.”
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said Eddie Warrior is one of three facilities currently considered a hot spot. Because of that, they’ve increased the PPE supply and suspended visitor and volunteer access, something that’s been upsetting for these families.
“It’s something that, unfortunately, we have to do in order to ensure their safety," said Justin Wolf, director of communications for ODOC. "And when we do things like suspend visitation, there’s a cost to that that is now, unfortunately, family members aren’t able to lay eyes on their loved ones and confirm for themselves that they really are okay.”
According to ODOC, more than 400 inmates at Eddie Warrior have now recovered from COVID-19, more than 300 inmates are still testing positive and one is currently hospitalized. It said numbers are going down thanks to the staff’s hard work.
"I think our numbers speak to the fact that they’re taking that responsibility home with them every night," Wolf said. "And protecting themselves at home as well as at work.”
However, these families are demanding the inmates be moved to a different facility or sent home. Angie Pitts’ son is currently an inmate at the Dick Conner Correctional Center and she’s worried he, and others, won’t make it out alive.
“I want my son home alive," Pitts said. "I don’t want my son, his last 600 days, to catch COVID. And then I’m worried, like these ladies I’m down here for today. These people’s parents want them home.”
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