Loved one of inmates at Green River Correction Complex speak out against conditions during outbreak

Published: May. 11, 2020 at 6:06 PM CDT
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Separated by prison bars, but connected through a phone line, an inmate at Green River Correctional Complex talks to his wife, Phoenix Shepherd, about life amid the virus outbreak within the prison.

"I couldn't get my temperature checked," he explained.

The outbreak of COVID-19 at Green River Correctional Complex in Muhlenberg County has led to 350 inmates and 50 staff members getting the virus which means 36 percent of the inmate population has the virus. Governor Beshear had every inmate and staff member tested last week. However, family of the inmates are speaking out about the conditions of the prison during the outbreak, saying it's unsafe, and action was not taken quick enough.

"We understand that these men their in prison for a crime, however they weren't sentenced to death," said Shepherd

Shepherd alongside 70 other women in a private Facebook group that have loved ones at the prison, say they want to shed a light on what they are calling unjust conditions at the prison.

"I'm just hearing stories like there's no sanitation, no cleaning products, they're still not getting the hand sanitizer that the DOC says they're getting," said MeKayla Breland, the fiance of an inmate at the facility.

Meanwhile, pictures of the inmates fill social media that show some inmates holding signs that indicate they are scared for their lives.

"They're calling home when they do get that little time begging for help," said Kayleigh Watson, girlfriend of an inmate at Green River. "These grown men are scared."

The state says the inmates are separated into four groups based on virus status. Those who have tested positive, those tested negative with direct exposure, negative with indirect exposure and those negative but medically vulnerable.

"They clearly cannot social distance. There's two men in one cell and the cell is itty bitty," said Shepherd.

The women say the cells aren't cleaned properly and that's only part of the problem.

"It doesn't really matter, because the staff members are still coming and going and they come in and still bring it to the guys," expressed Shepherd.

The women added that the men aren't getting fed properly as the prison is currently understaffed.

"I get that they're in prison and I understand that but they still have some rights," said Watson.

As these inmates wait out their sentences, the voices of their loved ones echo outside the walls of prison, which say they're demanding justice go both ways.

"These guys and these women even that are incarcerated they are Kentucky citizens," said Shepherd. "Their lives matter. Prison is not their final destination, and like we keep saying, they don't deserve to come home in a body bag."

"They should treat us like our lives matter," echoed Shepherd's husband.

There are currently four people from the outbreak who are hospitalized - two staff and two inmates, and two of those are in ICU.

On April 2, Gov. Beshear signed an executive order which commuted the sentences of 186 inmates, and plans to commute the sentences of another 743 inmates in state custody who are due to complete their sentences within the next six months.