Updated: May 17, 2020 11:16 AM
Created: May 16, 2020 06:25 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The State Department of Corrections is ramping up COVID-19 testing for some inmates and all staff across the state, but one inmate said that is still not enough to keep his fear away.
Chris is an inmates serving time for a nonviolent felony at the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility. He said since the coronavirus outbreak, things have been tense on his cell block.
“There's 60 men to a pod and we have two man cells and there's 30 on bottom, 35 on bottom, 30 on top,” Chris told KOB 4.
Chris said the men on his cell block have masks, but sometimes soap and other sanitizing products are hard to come by.
“It’s completely defeating the purpose. They're taking measures just to say they took measures. They're not doing anything to help us and everyone knows that,” Chris said.
Chris said he thinks the best solution right now is to decrease the prison population. Gov. Lujan-Grisham has already granted permission for some inmates to be released up to 30 days early.
“We’re still working based on that executive order from April 6 to look at those folks who meet criteria based on their offenses and are 30 days from release,” said Eric Harrison, with the State Department of Corrections.
Harrison said he knows there are valid concerns from inmates and that state officials are taking them seriously.
“I completely understand the concern and fear that they may have, but I think these results from the 25 percent testing really speaks to the quick action the department has taken and how seriously we take it,” Harrison said.
Chris said no one can really understand the life of lockup in the age of COVID-19 until they have lived it.
“Not if, but when it comes in here. You see it creeping around here like creeping death and to have that feeling of you already have an underlying condition, and you're sitting in prison for a crime you did—Yes I did the crime I know that. I understand that I have to do the time for the crime I committed—but there are other ways like ankle monitor and people who have placed to go,” he said.
The State Corrections Department announced Friday that they have tested a quarter of all state inmates and all employees. So far, only one employee has tested positive.
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