Exclusive: Virginia DOC inmates voice concerns over social distancing within their own prisons

Virginia News

HAYNESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — Inmates in state correctional centers are raising questions about management inside their prisons related to social distancing.

Haynesville Correctional Center inmate Nicholas Taylor says he recently came down with “tightness of the chest, body aches, low-grade fever, headaches,” which are symptoms related to COVID-19. 

In a phone call, Taylor told 8News he met with a physician on-site who indicated there was likely a 90% chance he would test positive for the virus given his symptoms, and that his pod was declared an “outbreak” zone. 

Taylor indicated he had to return to his original dorm, and was told isolation units were reserved for those showing “severe” symptoms.

“We all sleep on beds, it’s an open dorm facility with bunk beds three feet away from each other,” Taylor said. “…They sent me back on top of a, on a top bunk with people under me and beside me. So, if I was to cough everybody around me is going to have to be contacted.”

On their website the Virginia Department of Corrections says two offenders and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at the Haynesville Correctional Center. 

Similar concerns arise from the Deerfield Men’s Work Center. Clifford Samy, an inmate at Deerfield, says there are two dorms in his building and each holds around 50 inmates. But on Monday he said inmates in his pod had to merge with inmates next door.

“We was wondering why are y’all doing this? Because, you know, you just kept us separated, and now you want to put, have 100 inmates in one dorm,” Samy said. “And we have a lot of questions that they’re not answering. They’re just saying it was a call from somebody higher.”

Samy’s wife, Colette Davis, is concerned about the unknown.

“When you go to eat together, you know you’re all moving together. When you go to recreation, you’re all moving together for recreation. When you go outside to work, you know, so I don’t see how there is a way there can be social distancing,” Davis said.

The Virginia Department of Corrections responded to 8News’ request for comment with an invite to check out their website for “answers to many of your questions.”

There, DOC says facilities are on modified lockdown, inmates will eat in their own pods and go to recreation with those in their own pods.

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