Inmate letter reveals concerns about confinement and COVID-19

Published: Apr. 1, 2020 at 6:05 PM CDT
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Two weeks ago, Action 2 News showed you how some local jails are changing protocols in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An inmate at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution saw the story and wrote Action 2 News a letter sharing his concerns about the coronavirus.

In the letter, the anonymous inmate says if the virus makes its way into the institution, "we will be suffering and dropping like flies in here."

He goes on to say, "there's no spare room anywhere in this prison for them to take or keep more than a very small group of contagious people here."

He said they are told to practice common sense things like washing your hands and refraining from touching your face, but he worries about the communal areas shred by inmates, saying it can take a 'day or week' to be seen by a doctor.

When Action 2 News emailed Wisconsin's Department of Corrections, they pointed us to its website, where the most up-to-date information shows Oshkosh Correctional Institution has 2,055 inmates.

The website also has a list of all the actions the DOC is taking to ensure the safety and well-being of staff and inmates. On the website it says everyone has access to soap and hot water, an intensive cleaning protocol has been established with an emphasis on sanitizing high-touch surfaces.

All DOC employees are screened before entering the facility. If they test positive for the virus, they are quarantined.

Data on the DOC's website shows 8 DOC employees have tested positive for coronavirus in various facilities, but there are no known positive cases among inmates.

If an inmate would get COVID-19, the inmate, along with those who had contact with them, would be quarantined. On the website it says, "Each institution determines the area within their facility most conducive to such isolation procedures. Individuals that are quarantined for any contagious disease are quarantined in separate areas."

According to the DOC, visitations and inmate transfers have been suspended, inmate movement is limited and wellness checks are being carried out on those deemed to be high-risk.

If the virus spreads, like the anonymous inmate fears, the DOC says it has a contingency plan in place. It's activated the Department Emergency Operations Center to help coordinate resources, staffing and medical surveillance agency-wide.