LUBBOCK, Texas — In a yellow envelope, a collection of six letters from inmates at the Formby State Jail regarding the conditions they claim to have witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Odessa resident, JoAnna Hernandez, gathered the letters to send to Texas State representatives. She and the inmates claim the Texas Department of Criminal Justice aren’t taking the proper precautions when it comes to the pandemic.
“It’s Huntsville, it’s what’s going on systemically across the system,” Hernandez said.
She said she is concerned about the handling of the pandemic. While she says prison is designed to be difficult, she said the coronavirus has only made it more difficult.
“It’s not that TDCJ doesn’t have COVID policies, it’s just they’re not always being followed, and when they’re not followed, bad things happen.”
In their letters, the inmates claim social distancing isn’t possible, guards don’t take off protective equipment when moving amongst units, and claim new inmates who have the virus are being placed in the same pods with inmates who do not have the virus.
“To me, it’s hearing their fear,” Hernandez said of reading the letters.
A spokesperson for TDCJ said these allegations are false. Inmates are given N-95 or KN-95 masks, and those with COVID-19 are placed in the same area as those who have also tested positive. TDCJ has also conducted mass testing among inmates.
The TDCJ website also includes information regarding their protocols, and indicates their positivity rate is down. The positivity rate is currently at 7.33 percent, which lower than the state’s and the average rate for a large metropolitan county.
As of Monday, the Formby unit is on lockdown with 124 active cases. The capacity at the unit is 1,100. EverythingLubbock.com estimates if Formby is full, that would mean about 11 percent of the inmates have the virus.
Hernandez said Texas State Rep. Brooks Landgraf has been in contact with her in regards to the letters.