On Thursday, WAAY 31 pushed the Alabama Department of Corrections on what exactly it’s doing to keep prisoners, guards and deputies safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
We’re still waiting on answers, but we do know at least eight staff members and four prisoners have coronavirus. One of the prisoners died. The state admits Alabama's prisons are overcrowded, but now with the coronavirus pandemic, keeping inmates safe in prison is getting harder.
In cellphone video obtained by CNN, it shows Alabama inmates describing what it's like in the prisons. The unnamed inmates show how it's impossible to social distance with people in small spaces. One inmate said, "They're not giving us hand sanitizer. They're not giving us proper soap. They're not giving us masks."
The cellphone video recorded earlier this month is also illegal, because Alabama inmates are not allowed to have cellphones in the prisons, so someone had to sneak it in and get it to these inmates, which is a violation. WAAY 31 asked the Department of Corrections about the video and phone, but we haven’t gotten an answer.
In a release on Wednesday, the department did say it received a donation of more than 3,200 bars of anti-bacterial soap and seven bottles of hand sanitizer.
In other news releases, the department claimed it was quarantining sick inmates and working to provide face masks for inmates. WAAY 31 asked for proof and didn’t get an answer to that either. We also asked the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Office if it’s still transporting criminals to these prisons. Chief Deputy Richard Richy said, "As a matter of fact, we took four yesterday."
WAAY 31 asked the Department of Corrections how it's introducing new inmates into the population and if it’s using tests or isolating new inmates for 14 days. A spokesperson said they got our questions and are working on the answers. We will update this story once the department gets back to us.