ELKTON, Ohio (WKBN) – An inmate at the Elkton Federal Correctional Institute in Columbiana County has died of COVID-19, the prison confirmed Friday. There is concern the virus is spreading among prisoners at the facility, located just outside of Lisbon.
“We’re all equal and God doesn’t have favorites,” said Noelle Beltran, who is worried about her cousin who is an inmate. “We all deserve a certain standard of care, regardless of where we are, and I don’t think that Elkton is prepared to provide the care that these sick individuals require.”
Another inmate died after experiencing shortness of breath, but his coronavirus test results haven’t come back yet.
At least two other Elkton inmates have tested positive for the virus.
“This has to get out because unless we shine a light on this, it will be a dark spot and many, many people will die if they haven’t already,” Beltran said.
Beltran lives in Texas but her cousin, Benny, emails her every day. He’s already served nearly ten years and is set to be released in five months.
Benny told her inmates are not being protected from the spread of the virus.
“My biggest concern is he would die before we get a chance to kind of receive him home,” Beltran said.
Elkton inmate Travis Barrett mailed us a letter. He is serving a sentence for a little over eight years on a child pornography conviction.
He gave us a similar account of conditions, saying inmates are sleeping too close together and staff members do not wear masks or gloves.
Jessica Studey’s eldest son, Joseph, has been at Elkton for nearly a year. She said she’s terrified about what’s going on and so is he.
“I cannot imagine the psychological torture he’s going through through this,” she said. “He says he’s visibly seen a man turn white and fall to the floor.”
Congressman Bill Johnson said he is aware of the current situation at Elkton. He said his priority right now is understanding the interaction between county and health officials and the federal prison system. That way, they can move forward with a plan.
“It is a concern,” Johnson said. “It is a serious concern. It’s being taken seriously and I’m asking the questions to find out what that plan is.”
He said since this is a federal prison, inmates can’t just be released.
“We’ve got to bring in some medical help. How do we do that? Do we set up an auxiliary medical facility there at the site? Do we augment the hospitals? Do we expand the hospitals within the region to be able to handle the caseload? How do we do that?”
But until that plan is in place, family members will continue to worry.
“Someone in need is someone in need, regardless of what they’ve done,” Beltran said.
“He’s not in there for a death sentence and to be locked up with a deadly virus is just not fair,” Studey said.