NewsPublic Affairs / September 30, 2020

Indiana Women's Prison Locked Down Following New COVID-19 Cases

Article origination WFYI-FM
The Indiana Women's Prison was locked down Tuesday after new COVID-19 cases were identified. - Jake Harper/Side Effects Public Media

The Indiana Women's Prison was locked down Tuesday after new COVID-19 cases were identified.

Jake Harper/Side Effects Public Media

Updated Oct. 1 at 2:36 p.m.

The Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis is on lockdown after women incarcerated there tested positive for COVID-19, according to emails sent to prison staff.

“FACILITY ON LOCKDOWN” read one email sent Tuesday afternoon; another said positive cases have been identified in three units of the facility.

Those units are now quarantined, and staff there are required to use personal protective equipment. The prison has locked down other housing units, as well. Women must remain in their cells with the doors shut, and staff control their bathroom and shower breaks.

The women’s prison reported 25 positive cases early in the pandemic, but until now, no cases had been identified since June. The state has added 7 new cases to the reported total since last week, and an additional 22 women are in isolation or quarantine.

A staffer at the prison, who asked to remain anonymous because they didn’t have permission to speak with the media, indicated several cases could be added to those reported so far.

Eighteen staffers at the prison have tested positive, and some of those cases were identified earlier this month.

The Indiana Women’s Prison was previously locked down for several weeks during the summer. Women were kept in their cells most of the day, even though many of the quarters lack a toilet, running water or air conditioning. Staff and inmates at the prison told Side Effects that women were sometimes forced to urinate in cups, and that both correctional officers and prisoners passed out in the heat.

The prison opened the cell doors in July after the conditions were highlighted by local media, though women were still required to stay in their cells much of the day.

The prison has also been consistently short-staffed, according to current and former employees who spoke with Side Effects. During the lockdown, some staff will be temporarily reassigned to help deliver food and run the warehouse, according to one of the emails sent to staff.

Corrections officials defclined to be interviewed for this story.

This is a developing story and this post may be updated. Last updated Oct. 1, 2020.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health. Jake Harper can be reached at jharper@wfyi.org. He's on Twitter @jkhrpr.

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