Ohio Prisoner’s Facebook Live a Plea for Help During COVID-19 Pandemic
"They’re literally leaving us in here to die,” said a prisoner live-streaming on Facebook in a plea for help April 3, 2020.
The now-viral online video captures the desperation of prisoners during the coronavirus pandemic. The 31-year-old, wearing a stocking cap and surgical mask, is shown inside the Federal Correction Institution in Elkton, Ohio, where at least three prisoners had died from COVID-19 and at least another 20 were in the hospital. Prisoners are seen and heard coughing and wheezing while in beds a short distance apart.
“Shit, you know I don’t even know how to start this,” he begins. “Shit was all good like a couple days ago, right? So all of a sudden, out of the blue, fucking everybody just fucking dying and getting sick and shit. Like, this shit serious as fuck. Like, they literally leaving us in here to die.”
“People shouldn’t have to die like this,” he says.
The prisoner, who VICE News identified as Aaron DeShawn Campbell, reportedly used a contraband cellphone to speak on Facebook Live for about 20 minutes. The account was named “Ace Sanchez.”
“He says a prison nurse recently told him ‘half the unit is about to die,’” VICE News reported on April 5, 2020.
“He also recorded a courtyard in the prison and points out a tent on a basketball court that he claims was set up to store the bodies of men who died from COVID-19,” VICE said.
He is inside the “Federal Correction Institution in Elkton, where Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on [April 6] authorized the Ohio National Guard to send emergency medical assistance to deal with the outbreak,” correctionsone.com reported.
However, “Bureau of Prisons spokesperson Sue Allison told VICE the video ‘is currently under investigation,’ and denied that Campbell or other men shown in the video are sick.
“We can confirm that after identifying the inmates in the video, none of them were symptomatic of COVID-19,” Allison said in a statement.
The crisis persists, though the precise extent was unknown. FCI Elkton, a low-security prison with a minimum-security “camp” housing around 2,400 prisoners, has about seven prisoner cases of COVID-19, and 17 staffers have the disease, the BOP reports. Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio said in a statement that at least 25 Elkton prisoners tested positive for the virus. Three had died: 53-year-old Woodrow Taylor, 65-year-old Margarito Garcia-Fragoso and 76-year-old Frank McCoy.
Elkton correctional counselor and union president Joseph Mayle would not “confirm or deny” for VICE that footage was captured in the prison, and he refuted Campbell’s claims. Mayle said “three staff are positive, 15 inmates are in quarantine with symptoms, and 82 are in isolation.”
Several have been transferred to local hospitals. Two guards must escort each prisoner, DeWine said. “The result has left prison short-staffed, and hospitals fearing an influx of patients.”
However, he said, “there will be 32 medical staff at the prison to help set up testing labs and treat prisoners at the facility who fall ill with mild COVID-19 symptoms or other illnesses, and triage patients with serious symptoms to be transferred to hospitals.”
According to correctionsone.com, attorneys at two Cleveland-area law firms have filed emergency reprieve requests asking DeWine to grant temporary releases to thousands of inmates across the state who because of their age or health problems are especially susceptible to serious illness or death if they contract the virus.
If you have videos or photos from inside prisons or jails, please send them to Prison Legal News at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at HRDC, P.O. Box 1151, Lake Worth, FL 33460.
Sources: correctionsone.com, vice.com