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Wife creates a voice for inmates concerned about COVID-19 in Virginia prisons

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Posted at 6:47 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 17:27:24-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Every day without fail, Helen Shinault checks COVID-19 stats at Greensville Correctional Center where her husband is housed.

They have now have 124 cases at the facility, two at the hospital, and one inmate has died.

She worries every time she hears accounts like this from her husband:

"Cleaning supplies are to be given four times a day for the inmates to clean their own cells. Staff are supposed to clean thoroughly twice week. None of this is happening," Shinault read.

Shinault says her husband has severe asthma, and she worries of the consequences if he gets infected while housed inside Greensville.

"It`s a big concern if he gets COVID-19, will he even live through it?" Shinault wondered.

She says dozens of others with similar concerns connect with her on a Facebook page she created, specifically to be a voice for inmates at Greensville Correctional Center.

"Other than myself, with stories other than what I know, so I can say it's more than just me complaining about this," Shinault explained.

Her concerns are not unlike many in the community who have contacted CBS 6 about COVID-19 spreading among inmates from Riverside Regional Jail to Greensville.

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A DOC spokesperson disagrees with Shinault's claim, explaining they have an extensive sanitation plan in place using appropriate chemicals and approved personal protective equipment.

"Offenders testing positive are placed in medical isolation so they don't infect others. Treatment follows the department's COVID medical guidelines and we treat symptoms as they arise," Lisa Kinney, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Corrections, wrote.

The people CBS 6 spoke with that are worried about inmates at Riverside Regional Jail declined to speak on camera out of fear retaliation, but say they too have heard stories directly from inmates complaining about inadequate cleaning practices and supplies.

A spokesperson for Riverside Regional Jail says everyone must wear PPE at all times. They also say they have cleaning teams continuously sanitizing the facility.

To date, 33 inmates have contracted COVID-19 at the jail.

Officials say offenders who test positive are separated and quarantined. Staff members who test positive are placed on leave until they are cleared by a doctor.