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Protesters and inmates want changes in judicial system

Nearly half of the inmates at a prison in east Arkansas have tested positive for coronavirus

MEMPHIS, Tennessee —

There are a number of inequalities protesters say they want to see changed. Some are long-term and others more immediate. Local 24 News reporter Brittani Moncrease spoke with a protester who wants to see progress as it relates to COVID-19 and those incarcerated.

She spoke with Belay Reddick, a Forrest City inmate, to see how inmates' needs and protesters' needs match up. The march is long. The chants are loud. Voices want to be heard.

"I have personally sent messages to the Mayor's office on behalf of my organizations with no response," said Amber Sherman, Black Lives Matter and Memphis Young Democrats member.

Sherman has been protesting each day. She wants to see change in the judicial system starting with COVID-19.

"Giving CLERB subpoena power. Also, for our justice system or sheriff's office to immediately release a plan for how they are going to test people in Shelby County jail which has proven to be a hot spot," said Sherman. 

As of Friday, Shelby County Sheriff's Office said there are no known cases of COVID-19 at the county jail. All 160 previous cases have recovered. At the federal prison in Forrest City, Arkansas, the scenario is different.

"Nearly half of the population here has tested positive for coronavirus," said Belay Reddick, a FCI Forrest City inmate.

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RELATED: More than 50 inmates and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at Forrest City Federal Correctional Complex

Reddick spoke with Local 24 News in April when the cases at the prison were more than 90. Now, there are more than 460.

"We're vulnerable because we get different staff every day and they come in contact with us from coming from the community. That's how we get sick," said Reddick. "The testing is pretty slow. Since they tested us, it's been such a long period of time. We've been exposed to other people, so we don't know whether, if we were tested today, whether or not it will show up positive." 

On the outside, Sherman is fighting for the same cause.

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"To get them COVID treatment or testing and to release non-violent offenders who are most at risk," said Sherman. 

In Shelby County, legal release is not up to the Sheriff; however, the office has an expediter to help get people out. The Bureau of Prisons said more than 3,600 inmates are in home confinement.

"For the last 16 years, I've been fighting to keep my mind and keep my body together to make sure that I had a plan, that I have a plan rather, when I get out," said Reddick. "Now, all of that is secondary. I'm fighting to stay alive in a place that is a feeding or breeding ground for a virus that is eventually going to reach more of us." 

Reddick said no inmates from Forrest City are in home confinement.  Local 24 News checked with the BOP. They would not give a breakdown by institutions.

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