At Ohio's Elkton Federal Prison "Fucking Everybody Just Fucking Dying" From COVID-19

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A 20-minute video recorded on a contraband phone and posted to Facebook Live Friday purports to show the hellish conditions at Elkton federal prison in Lisbon, Ohio.

The man in the video has been identified by Vice News as 31-year-old inmate Aaron DeShawn Campbell. He pleads with viewers to get the word out about the situation at Elkton, where as of this weekend three inmates have died from the Coronavirus, 15 are in isolation with symptoms and more than 80 are in quarantine.



Campbell describes the absurdity of "social distancing" in the prison environment and makes it sound as though all but a few inmates are likely infected with COVID-19. (He says that he, for the moment, is symptom-free.) He says he took the risk of punishment by recording the video because so many people are getting sick, and because he felt publicizing the conditions there was so important. 

His message is both an echo and a validation of pleas that inmate advocates have been making for days. Even the Plain Dealer editorial board has now called on Gov. Mike DeWine to act "forcefully and broadly" to decarcerate state prisons, where inmates have already become infected.



Friday, DeWine recommended releasing only 38 of the state's 48,991 prisoners, pregnant women and those over 60 with fewer than 60 days left to serve. DeWine is a classic 'law-and-order' Republican and said he wanted to be "very respectful" of the local courts, the local victims and public safety. 

Advocates regard these recommendations as a cruel quarter-measure. They say nothing less than extreme decarceral policies at the local, state and federal levels will prevent a disastrous spread of COVID-19. 

The situation at Elkton is among the worst in the nation. On Thursday, three inmates died of COVID-19: 53-year-old Woodrow Taylor, 65-year-old Margarito Garcia-Fragoso and 76-year-old Frank McCoy. Only Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution in Louisiana has seen more deaths than Elkton (5).

In the video above, Campbell says that guards have provided inmates with cloth masks and a small bottle of soap, (which is replenished every two weeks), but that, in general, the health and well-being of the inmates are not being taken seriously.

"They are literally leaving us in here to die," he says early on.

More than once, he references the profit motives of the prison industry. "They got this shit called compassionate release," says Campbell, who says he has less than a year left to serve on a drug sentence. "But they ain't gonna let me out because they ain't gonna make no money." 

Some of the information in the video has been disputed by Joseph Mayle, the president of the union which represents prison guards at Elkton.

Campbell records a tent that has been set up outside on the facility's basketball court and says it has been erected to store bodies of the dead. Mayle told Vice that the tent was set up to be a testing area but is now empty. He also said that Campbell's roommate, whom Campbell repeatedly says is "dying" of the Coronavirus, is "fine." 

Elkton houses nearly 2,500 inmates. It is located in Columbiana County, just south of Youngstown and Mahoning County. That eastern area of Ohio is among the state's COVID-19 hot spots.



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