The United States has not done a particularly good job of handling the coronavirus, when compared to other countries. The state of Oregon has faired decently, compared to other states. But adherence to CDC guidelines for stopping the spread of the pandemic is challenging in Oregon prisons.
Loved ones of those imprisoned across the state have raised red flags about how COVID is being treated within the carceral system. Not only do adults in custody (AIC) sleep in close quarters with each other, some allege they have been sent to work while showing COVID symptoms, and worse, not treated or quarantined long enough when they test positive for the virus.
Over 600 inmates at Two Rivers Correctional Institution (TRCI) in Umatilla have tested positive for coronavirus, and 304 of those cases are active. That makes Two Rivers the largest COVID outbreak in the state, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority. The Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) has reported 5 inmate deaths at TRCI in the last week. James Bennett is an inmate at Two Rivers, and he believes there may be more deaths than have been reported.
KBOO's Althea Billings spoke with Heather Bernhardt, Bennett’s fiance, about his experience battling coronavirus in prison.