Union president says Oakdale prison employees struggling to work in COVID-19 environment

Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 10:48 PM CDT
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The Oakdale Federal Prison, which has been called the epicenter of COVID-19 outbreaks among inmates by a union leader, has had no new deaths since they reported five last week. However, the union president says the situation continues to worsen for employees there.

Union President Ronald Morris says 22 employees confirm positive for COVID-19. But, he says many more are home under quarantine.

"I’ve lost count of staff that are out of work at home, awaiting test results at the moment," said Morris.

Morris represents members of the local 1007 who work at the federal correctional facility. He says employees who are still at the prison, must deal with extraordinary hours under difficult conditions.

“Working, we are walking into an exposed environment. An exposed COVID-19 environment,” he said.

Morris says the Bureau of Prisons has sent employees from other parts of the country to help including medical personnel, but he continues to say the situation is dire.

“Dealing with anxiety and fear of bringing this home to our families or out into the community,” he said.

He says inmates are quarantined but cannot practice social distancing due to the layout of the facility. He says 18 inmates remain hospitalized but no staff. He says 45 inmates have tested positive and that they await more test results.

Morris is pleased that U.S. Representative Mike Johnson and Senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy have

calling the situation in Oakdale unacceptable.

Sen. Kennedy points out what happens with the federal prison affects inmate staff and the broader Oakdale community.

Cassidy says the coronavirus must be contained wherever it’s found, for the safety of the support staff, guards, law enforcement, their families and all others concerned.

Though the Bureau says they are putting inmates in home confinement when possible, there has been no word on how many are from FCI 1 Oakdale

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