Union leaders for prison employees file “imminent danger” complaints with OSHA

Eight inmates from the federal prison complex in Oakdale have died since March 28.
Updated: May. 21, 2020 at 7:57 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -Union leaders who represent staff at the federal prison in Oakdale have filed complaints that employees and inmates face imminent danger, because of the way COVID-19 is being dealt with there.

Complaints have been sent to OSHA and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Inmates’ families also continue to express concern about the coronavirus at the prison.

Eight inmates from federal prison facilities in Oakdale have died since March 28th.

A woman we are calling Marie is terrified to learn her husband, an inmate, has tested positive.

“After he hung up, I cried for three hours until I could actually pull myself together. I called his brothers, I called family just to let them know. And then I had to have the conversation with my children,” she said.

Marie, who lives in another state, says her husband is to be released soon-- but not soon enough.

“With COVID-19 specifically, people around him are constantly finding out that they’re sick or they’re dying,” she said.

Union presidents for two employee locals say the conditions at prison facilities pose imminent danger to inmates and staff because those positive are not being properly isolated.

“By Rodney Myers allowing those inmates to roam, walk around on the compound, interacting with staff and other inmates, some are asymptomatic. They are still able to spread the virus to staff and inmates,” said Ronald Morris, president of AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees) Local 1007.

They say many of the guidelines recommended by the CDC have not been implemented. And that staff have not been given adequate personal protective equipment to be safe.

“I want to see the staff get treated fairly and for all of their PPE to be issued to them in accordance with the CDC guidelines and the bureau guidelines,” said Corey Trammel, president of AFGE Local 3957.

The union leaders say more testing is needed. Plus, they say staff members are exposing their families and members of the community to the virus.

“We feel that he’s endangering the life of staff, their families and our communities that we go out into when we leave our job site,” said Morris.

Though the BOP director would not do an interview, in a video statement to staff posted May 20, he says their medical experts believe their proactive testing will shorten the duration of the virus in the prison system.

“Even though our numbers appear high, what is typically not being conveyed in the media, is that many of these positive inmates are asymptomatic. They are not showing any signs or symptoms currently associated with the coronavirus,” said Michael Carvajal, BOP Director.

Meanwhile, Marie prays she will see her husband again.

“I love him, all my heart, I’m still in love with him and I honestly don’t think that I could survive if something happened,” she said.

The OSHA complaints are linked below, along with the letter to BOP. And the BOP web site has the latest on what the director says they are doing to stop the spread in federal prisons.

The warden at Oakdale referred us to the BOP which, so far, has declined to respond to specific allegations.

We just received word from the Department of Labor that OSHA has opened an investigation and that no further information will be available until the investigation is complete.

OSHA complaint 1. OSHA complaint regarding PPE.

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