Families of inmates say MDC is not being transparent about how they’re handling COVID outbreak | KOB 4

Families of inmates say MDC is not being transparent about how they’re handling COVID outbreak

Grace Reader
Updated: October 19, 2020 07:45 AM
Created: October 18, 2020 09:06 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The families of inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center said they’re being left in the dark about how MDC is handling a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility. The facility has more than 330 active COVID cases and 45 staff members are out sick with the virus. 

Wendy Saunders, a woman whose husband is at MDC, said she’s been working with a lawyer to figure out what’s going on with her husband’s case, but communication with inmates has been limited due to COVID-19. 

“Now when you call up there, oh they're in complete lockdown, complete lockdown and quarantine. Can you not tell me how my family is? Is he alive? Is he sick? Is he dead? How are you guys dealing with people that may be in there and infected?” she said.

Saunders said her husband, Michael Johnson, was charged with stealing a car, but Saunders claimed it was a misunderstanding. Court documents show that Johnson was also charged with resisting arrest and damaging the car.

“Me and Michael come from really rough childhoods, really rough backgrounds—both have history,” she said.

Multiple people reached out to KOB 4 with stories similar to Saunders’, saying they can’t get in touch with their loved ones—or the jail—for answers.

MDC officials said they’ve suspended video visits Thursday, but expect to reopen that service Monday. They also confirmed they had suspended video visits before this instance — earlier this year.

Inmates can still make phone calls, and email and text their family with tablets in their cells, but some people said they haven't been able to reach their loved ones that way. Those who have said they’re concerned about what they’re hearing about the jail’s conditions.

“Now you've put his life in danger because you have overworked guards, you're understaffed, you don't know what you're doing which is okay to say because none of us do,” Saunders said. 

“But they're somebody to somebody,” she added.

MDC said they’re not allowed to disclose to family members whether their loved one has tested positive for COVID due to HIPAA laws. 

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