Inmates, staff worry about care as Marion prison becomes one of largest outbreaks in US

Posted at 10:00 AM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-27 10:00:43-04

MARION, Ohio — Inmates and staff at the Marion Correctional Institution are worried about care as the prison has become one of the nation’s largest hotspots for COVID-19, according to an article from Marion Star.

According to the article, the prisoners and their family members say they do not have proper medical care. The union representing 349 guards and other employees at the prison is concerned that the staff who had been sent home after testing positive for COVID-19 went back to work as soon as three days of being symptom free.

At the prison, 78% or 1,950 inmates, have been infected by the virus, along with 154 staff members.

Corrections officer John Dawson of Mansfield died from the virus. Extensive testing at the prison has resulted in a surge of cases. The New York Times rated it as the largest source of virus infections in the country, according to the Marion Star.

Inmates say they are not receiving proper medical care.

"As recently as yesterday, we have inmates in here that can't even walk and breathe because of the virus,” said Austin Cooper, who has served over half of his six-year sentence for aggravated burglary and assault. "Medical just keeps sending them back out here to the camp, talking about they can't do nothing for them."

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Spokesperson JoEllen Smith told Marion Star in an email that the prison has nine infirmary beds and will send inmates to the hospital “if they require a higher level of care than can be provided at the facility."

Julie Peterson, whose son is incarcerated at Marion, said the state should have done more to prevent the spike.

"Obviously it’s going to get in, but it should never have got like this," she said.

Smith told Marion Star that the state has taken numerous steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus inside Ohio prisons, including mass testing.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said it’s working with the Ohio National Guard to train and assist mission critical functions at the Marion Correctional Institution.

Marion Star said Smith did not respond to questions about sending Marion employees back to work three days after being symptom-clear.

RELATED: Inmate provides firsthand account of life in prison overrun with COVID-19

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