Concerns grow over prison conditions after 2 Oakdale FCC inmates test positive for COVID-19

Coronavirus Prison Concerns

OAKDALE, La. (KPLC) - The Coronavirus is hitting prisons across the country including Southwest Louisiana.

Following reports that 2 inmates at Oakdale Federal Correction tested positive for COVID-19, concerns for those behind bars have grown.

“If my bank or Wendy’s can email me and tell me what their plan and procedure is, I feel like the BOP can communicate with families and let us know if our loved one is okay, said Arjeane Thompson.

It’s a battle for those on the inside of a cell but also for those on the outside, like Arjeane Thompson whose boyfriend is serving time on theft charges. He’s set to be released in July.

“I’m concerned about him because he has pre-existing medical conditions, and just knowing that they’re less than 3 feet away from each other when they could spread so quickly," said Thompson.

And she’s not alone in her worry...she shared messages with us from several inmates who have written to the Federal Bureau of Prisons about the current conditions.

Oakdale FCC inmates voice concern
Oakdale FCC inmates voice concern (Source: KPLC)

According to a statement sent to us by the Federal Bureau of Prisons:

According to the BOP website, the department has implemented Modified Operations at its facilities for the next 30 days.

SOCIAL VISITS: Social visits are suspended. Inmate telephone system minutes will be increased to 500 minutes per calendar month Bureau-wide.

INMATE MOVEMENT (Updated): As we previously described generally, inmate internal movement is suspended with limited exceptions. This suspension, however, does not mean the BOP has ceased all inmate movements because the federal judicial system, as well as state courts, continue to process criminal cases.

All inmates are being authorized for movements from all facilities under the following conditions:

  • Inmates must have been in BOP custody for greater than 14 days;
  • Perform an exit screening for COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath and temperature).
  • If the inmate has no symptoms and a temperature less than 100.4 degrees F, the inmate will be transferred;
  • If the inmate has COVID-19 symptoms, or temperature greater than 100.4 degrees F, they will not be transferred and will instead be immediately placed in isolation.
  • Regional Directors will notify the BOP Emergency Operations Center prior to movement in order to track and monitor movement.

CONTRACTORS: Contractors performing essential services or necessary maintenance on essential systems will undergo advanced health screening, to include a temperature check. All other contractor access is suspended. Contractors who require access will be screened using the same procedures as staff prior to entry.

SCREENING OF INMATES: The BOP will continue to screen inmates for COVID-19 following previously-indicated practices:

  • All newly-arriving BOP inmates are screened for COVID-19 exposure risk factors and symptoms.
  • Asymptomatic inmates with exposure risk factors are quarantined.
  • Symptomatic inmates with exposure risk factors will be isolated and tested for COVID-19 per local health authority protocols.

“The prison population is a little different because they are confined," said Calcasieu Sheriff Tony Mancuso.

7 News asked Mancuso as to how the Calcasieu Correctional Center has adapted to growing concerns of the virus.

“We have space available and set aside now to quarantine somebody if that arises, luckily, we have not had to do that," Mancuso said. "We are actually in the process and looking at possible video visitation.”

As for Thompson, who’s used to talking to her boyfriend twice a day, she’s fearful that that communication will be compromised if more cases are confirmed.

“I worry that I won’t be able to get to him if something were to happen and I wouldn’t be confident that the BOP would alert me if something were to happen," she said.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed 2 inmates at Oakdale FCC tested positive for Covid 19 and are now in isolation.

7 News also reached out to the Oakdale Federal Correction Complex directly to find out more about its procedure going forward since confirming those 2 positive cases. We have not yet heard back.

Copyright 2020 KPLC. All rights reserved.