Officials work to prevent spread of COVID-19 within Philadelphia prison system

Officials are working to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the Philadelphia prison system by practicing social distancing and providing cleaning supplies to inmates.

"It was very chilling. I couldn't get his voice out of my head," said Sharon Kamper. Her son 22-year-old son Shafik Kelsey is incarcerated at PICC, Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center on State Road. FOX 29's Shawnette Wilson talked to her on the phone.

"He was saying there was a lot of people in there sick and they're not properly sanitizing or doing what they have to do to protect the ones that didn't show signs of sickness."

She’s worried about her son and other inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I would hate for my son to go in there for one thing then don't come out," she said. Kamper posted her concerns on social media over the weekend. Then yesterday her son called with some encouraging news.

"He said that they did move him and his celly to another area in the jail away from the ones that were sick so that gave me a little relief and he said he was fine," said Kamper.


Wilson talked with Commissioner Blanche Carney, who is the head of Philadelphia Department of Prisons. She says four inmates and one correctional staff member have tested positive for the coronavirus. She says they’re providing cleaning supplies to inmates, increasing hand sanitizer, social distancing as best as possible with tape markings around common areas and letting fewer people into common areas at a time. Visits have stopped but inmates are allowed to make more phone calls.The prisons are making their own cloth face masks for staff.

"The inmates are saying otherwise," said Stephanie Garcia. Her fiancé is an inmate at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road.

"It's even rough on the counselors and it's rough on the workers too," said Garcia. She hopes Philadelphia prison officials consider other options.

"Especially for the ones that have loved ones that are non-violent crimes. I feel like they should start releasing them on house arrest or some type of program or something because it's not worth lives. They're humans just like us," said Garcia.

Officials won't say which of the six prisons in Philadelphia have the positive cases but that isolation procedures are in place for them. There's an extensive list that families and can take a look at about what the prisons are doing to fight the spread of COVID-19. If you wish to view the list, please click here.


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