Roughly one hundred cars circled the Westville Correctional Facility Tuesday in protest of what they say are dangerous health conditions regarding COVID-19 within the prison.
Protestors drove around the state prison for two hours in cars covered with signs which read “inmate lives matter,” and “prison sentence, not death sentence.” They silently prayed for the inmates inside where there’s a COVID-19 outbreak.
As of Tuesday, 143 Westville prison inmates and 36 staff members are confirmed with COVID-19 with one confirmed COVID-19 related death.
Angela Grable is a mentor for one of the Westville inmates and organized the protest. She received letters from prisoners writing about the poor conditions.
“We just really want to get the truth out about what is going on inside of Westville, what has been going on inside of Westville for many, many years,” she says. “The facilities have always been awful, so then you add COVID to that and it was just a disaster.”
Grable says there’s no hot water, prisoners are refused medical attention, and masks and hand sanitizer are being taken away.
She says the conditions at the prison have always been bad, but it’s especially dangerous during a pandemic.
“What happened at Westville is they didn’t take it seriously and they just didn’t care,” she says. “I don’t know if they foresaw how out of control it was going to get, but they took no precautions. They didn’t protect the prisoners in any way.”
Grable says inmates are having their commissary taken away so they can’t buy soap and healthy prisoners are not being properly separated from sick prisoners.
Several people who claim to have family members at Westville shared similar stories on Facebook and during the protest.
An IDOC official denied most of the claims in an email. According to a statement from the Public Information Officer with the Indiana Dept. of Correction:
Each offender at the facility has been issued two masks. They are encouraged to wear them at all times
All staff have been issued PPE equipment and are required to wear them at all times.
All Covid Positive Offenders are quarantined. Symptomatic offenders who have not tested positive are quarantined together.
Non-symptomatic offenders who could have been exposed are quarantined.
Cleaning of IDOC facilities occurs on a daily basis and cleaning supplies are replenished as needed. Offenders and staff have access to soap and hand sanitizer which are also replenished as needed.