FORREST CITY, Arkansas —
"It's like they're being submitted to a death sentence, and I don't think that's fair because they didn't go there under a death sentence," said Freda, an inmate's relative.
Freda's relative is in the Forrest City Federal Correctional Complex where more than 50 people have tested positive for COVID-19. She and another inmate's relative, Kendra, are worried for their loved ones' safety.
"They don't care. They don't care. I've called several times trying to get someone just to talk to them and the phone would just ring ring ring," said Kendra.
An anonymous source gave Local 24 a look inside. Hundreds of inmates share a limited number of showers, stalls, and sink. Some are broken; however, inmates did receive protective items like hand soap.
"They're not allowed to have hand sanitizer. That's contraband," said Freda.
The hand sanitizer is considered contraband because of the high alcohol content.
"The only other thing he said he received was a face mask. He said they just told him to wash it. It's washable," said Kendra. "Even the cooks in there have caught COVID-19, so that's not safe for them to be eating when it's people who serve them food they have the virus."
Sources say several buses of new inmates have entered the facility. One bus was quarantined prior to interacting with the general prison population. Sources also tell Local 24 News, those with symptoms were separated in rooms like the chapel. Tents have been set up within the complex in case of an overflow. As for social distancing, everyone sleeps in close quarters.
"It's no social distancing at all," said Kendra.
"Not when you have so many people in this small area. It's no way for that," said Freda.
Family members have one plea.
"Take some compassion because this is still a human. People change. Just give them a chance and focus more on their health of keeping them safe," said Kendra.
"If they meet all the requirements, compassionate release should be an option for them. If my family member was sitting up in there doing a certain amount of time and he came home on a stretcher for us to bury, that's a burden on us that we don't want to carry," said Freda.
That is the concern for many especially for those with upcoming release dates. Many inmates are trying to get Compassionate Release or home confinement. We've reached out to the prison and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. We have not received a response yet.