JARRATT, Va -- Email after email, viewers have been writing to CBS 6 voicing concerns about the safety of their loved ones incarcerated at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia.
Some of their sentiments included:
- "I am worried about my brother."
- "I tried to contact [my boyfriend] without any answers. It's very worrying and concerning."
- "It's heartbreaking not to hear their voices just to get a peace of mind to know they are OK."
- "Those inmates are suffering."
- "This prison is hell on earth."
Their fears came after three inmates died within just two days on July 30 and 31. Ever since, the facility has been on lockdown, meaning families have had no communication with those inside the prison.
“None, ever since it happened. We had visits scheduled for last Sunday and for this coming Sunday. We scheduled the visits and then we get an email that cancels the visits," said one woman, who wished to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, whose son is an inmate at Greensville.
She said the only contact she's had with her son was a letter that she received from him Wednesday.
The letter read, "We are currently locked down and have been since Saturday the 28th... It is completely up in the air how long we are going to be locked down-- a few days, weeks, could be longer for real... We don't have access to phones or the kiosk. I am limited to sending letters."
A post on the Virginia Department of Corrections' Facebook page said all visitation at Greensville would be cancelled through Aug. 13.
DOC has not released much information about the recent inmate deaths, including the official causes of death and the names of the deceased, but officials said they administered Naloxone to the inmates, which is a drug that can reverse overdoses.
Families told CBS 6 they are aware of a significant prevalence of drugs within the prison.
“He says 80% of the people in his pod are just strung out all day long," the mother of an inmate said. "It's not safe. If you're all drugged up, you're a sitting duck. I mean, anything could happen to you."
According to a DOC report published in March 2023, there were 85 overdoses in 2022 across state facilities-- the highest number since 2016.
At the same time, visitation plummeted from more than 240,000 visits in 2016 to about 11,500 in 2022. DOC attributed the drop in visits to the pandemic.
The number of visitors found with drugs on them have also decreased over the years from 88 incidents in 2019 to 10 incidents in 2022.
Family members wonder how drugs are getting into facilities and added that they go through a very thorough search when visiting a loved one.
“We’re sniffed by dogs. Our shoes are taken off. We are run through a scanner. We’re run through an x-ray machine. They look inside our mouth. They look inside our pockets. There are restrictions about what kind of clothing you can wear," one mother said.
"I don't think visitors can get anything into that facility with all the screening we go through," said the girlfriend of another inmate.
The report found that contraband discovered in the mail has increased over the years with 80 incidents reported in 2022.
DOC said it has a task force that constantly adapts techniques that aim to prevent people from smuggling contraband. Staffing, however, can be a challenge.
"Officer shortages do pose challenges to normal operations at facilities, depending on the degree of shortages at each individual facility. The VADOC strives to fill vacancies as quickly as possible to ensure normal operations," said DOC spokesperson Kyle Gibson.
Loved ones feel the efforts, though, are not enough as they continue to hear inmates describe unsafe conditions.
“It is completely disgusting and heinous," an inmate's mother said.
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