Mock funeral asks for prison COVID-19 safety

VIDEO: Mock funeral asks for prison COVID-19 safety

OLYMPIA, Wash. — An inmate at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center died Thursday due to a COVID-19-related illness, the Washington State Department reported.

The announcement came just a day after the families of some inmates staged a mock funeral to demand more inmates be released from Washington’s prisons.

The close quarters in prison mean inmates and corrections officers are at greater risk of catching COVID-19.

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“He’s saying that there’s three men to a cell. He’s only been able to get out 10 minutes every few days,” Shajuanda Tate said.

Tate has a son just starting a prison term.

“He doesn’t have any preexisting conditions. He is young but, however, you know his health still the most important thing to me and my family,” Tate said.

Ginny Parkham has a son four months away from release.

“He’s already spent 24 years in prison, and we want him to come home. Alive, not in a casket,” she said.

Numbers updates on Dec. 10 showed 2,186 COVID-19 cases in Washington’s prisons. There have now been four deaths so far.

At Gov. Jay Inslee’s behest, the Department of Corrections released about 1,100 inmates judged to be less dangerous at the beginning of the pandemic.

Families of some victims felt their feelings were excluded.

“Their voices are being shut down and in favor of their perpetrators,” said victims advocate Alex Henry.

The families of prisoners want compassionate release for prisoners over 80 years old. And they want many in minimum-security camps to be released to make room to isolate inmates who’ve been exposed.

“Create the space, reduce your prison population now … because we cannot wait to save those lives,” said Washington area NAACP head Gerald Hankerson.