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A few dozen family members of Delaware inmates protest state COVID-19 response

Roman Battaglia, Delaware Public Media

A protest held Friday objected to the treatment of inmates in Delaware prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The criminal justice activist group Citizens for a Pro Business Delaware joined friends and families of inmates outside of the Governor’s office in the Tatnall building in Dover.

Elaine Autry was among the few dozen protesters. She says her son is being denied freedoms.

“My son says ‘stop lying’ because that’s what the commissioner and the governor have been doing,” said Autry. “They say that the commissary is open. It’s open to some people, but not everybody. Some people haven't had commissary in weeks. They say that they get to go outside. Some people do. My son hasn’t gone outside in months.”

Heather Morris organized the protest. She says her boyfriend tested positive while incarcerated.

“He tested positive for COVID almost four weeks ago, he had a fever of 102.8,” said Morris. “So If I had a fever of 102.8, I would be taken to the hospital, I would have been monitored somewhere, closely, they didn’t do that for him. He could have had a seizure, he could have had a stroke. A temperature like that is very important and should be monitored and they can’t even do that. He asked for Tylenol later and was told that they’re too busy.”

State officials say, as of Thursday, there are nine COVID-positive inmates statewide - all at the Sussex Correctional Institute (SCI) in Georgetown.

There was an outbreak of about 370 cases there last month, and the state announced the ninth COVID-related death among inmates earlier this week - eight of whom had underlying health conditions.

The protesters list of demands include more transparency around inmate recoveries from COVID, more investigation of reports of abuse from guards and the immediate release of vulnerable populations in state prisons.

In a statement a state Department of Correction (DOC) spokesperson pointed to the state’s administering of more than 2,700 COVID-19 tests for inmates and prison staff, and said of the protesters, “It is unfortunate that organizers do not acknowledge that within one month DOC and its medical provider treated, contained and stopped the spread of the coronavirus at SCI.”

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