Wife of COVID-19 inmate who died accuses MDOC of ignoring his pleas for help

Updated: Sep. 4, 2020 at 7:05 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - COVID-19 deaths and cases appear to be on the rise in the state prison system.

The wife of one inmate who died is angry by what she calls the animal-like treatment of those falling ill inside prison walls.

“My husband was pleading and crying at that time. He was so desperate,” said Mary Leflore.

She last spoke with her husband, Willie, an inmate at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, on August 17. He died a week later at a Jackson hospital presumably of COVID-19.

“He didn’t deserve to die like that. Nobody deserves to die like that,” said Flowers. “Nobody deserves to suffer and if they had gotten to him sooner and taken care of him, he might still be alive.”

The DeSoto county resident said the 69-year-old had pre-existing conditions. He filled out medical forms requesting to see a nurse or doctor and was refused until she emailed officials, but then she said it was too late.

As of September 2, MDOC reports one COVID-19 inmate death. Twelve presumed COVID-19 inmate deaths are pending autopsy.

There are 540 confirmed positive cases, including 136 active inmate cases and 134 positive MDOC staff cases. One-thousand-and-ten inmates tested negative.

“My husband was there serving time. He was doing what the state had ordered him to do,” added the grieving wife. “I think the state has a responsibility to the inmates that they should care for them and they don’t. It’s horrible.”

The 70-year-old fears the virus has spread to other inmates in her husband’s Rankin County unit. Coronavirus inmate deaths are also suspected at the prison at Parchman.

Prison officials reported 73 total inmate deaths this year.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections Communications and Constituent Services Director Grace Fisher released this statement:

Inmate medical care is a priority of this administration. We are not indifferent to inmate family members’ concerns about their loved ones in our care. We are following the CDC’s guidance in our COVID-19 response. We are continuing our measure to address the pandemic, including screening staff and inmates; monitoring inmates for COVID-19 signs or symptoms; testing, quarantine and isolation practices; education of staff and inmates; and institutional and personal hygiene. In coordination with our current contract healthcare provider Centurion of Mississippi, LLC, we were prepared for the impacts of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 well before the CDC issued its interim guidance in March. Since the CDC guidance was issued, we have worked diligently with Centurion to implement and comply with the guidance at Parchman and other facilities. We also have continued to develop and refine best practices for protecting inmates and staff from the risks associated with COVID-19.

With autopsies pending in most cases, we have reason to believe most of the inmate deaths are from natural causes.

Many of the inmates in the prison system enter prison with pre-existing medical conditions and are therefore more susceptible to illness. That fact affects our death rate. We have more than 17,000 inmates in our system, a factor to consider as well.

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