A rally on Friday at the Oklahoma state capitol sought to bring attention to COVID-19 in Oklahoma prisons.
Former state senator Connie Johnson is behind the effort and said one demand is asking Governor Stitt and Board of Corrections to declare a state of emergency at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center.
Johnson called Eddie Warrior a "breeding ground for the infection. News On 6 reported last week that more than 700 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19. Friday, the DOC reported there were 58 active cases and said 723 prisoners have recovered there.
"We came together with a mutual goal of raising awareness about what's going on at Eddie Warrior and prisons across the state and demanding that Governor Stitt do something, say something, care,” Johsnon said.
The Department of Corrections lists on its website the number of prisoner deaths possibly related to COVID-19, and the number of confirmed COVID-19 prisoner deaths.
As of Friday, DOC said there are two possible COVID-19 deaths at Eddie Warrior, but zero confirmed. Johnson claimed there are actually three COVID-19 related deaths at the facility, saying she has information "from inside."
In a statement, Governor Stitt's office said in part he "is committed to ensuring a safe environment, and appropriate medical care for all inmates and ODOC staff. Governor Stitt and ODOC take seriously the responsibility to protect the health and lives of the people that are in state custody."
The DOC also released a statement, saying in part, "The Oklahoma Department of Corrections appreciates and shares the passion for inmates' needs as expressed in recent rallies..." going on to say there is an abundance of information on its website about its COVID response.
Full statement from Governor Kevin Stitt’s Office:
“Governor Stitt appreciates the hard work of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to deploy rapid response teams and contain any outbreaks that develop.
While it is fortunate majority of positive cases inside ODOC facilities have been asymptomatic, the governor understands and empathizes with the concerns shared by inmates and their families.
He receives constant updates as the situation develops and is committed to ensuring a safe environment, and appropriate medical care for all inmates and ODOC staff. Governor Stitt and ODOC take seriously the responsibility to protect the health and lives of the people that are in state custody.”
Full Statement from DOC:
"The Oklahoma Department of Corrections appreciates and shares the passion for inmates’ needs as expressed in recent rallies. Our mission is to provide inmates a path for personal growth, accountability, and a better future.
As detailed on our website, ODOC provides an abundance of information regarding our COVID-19 pandemic plan, responses, actions, testing, results, and links to resources on preventing infection and spread. ODOC offers a daily telephone update with information regarding our operations during the pandemic. ODOC has increased inmates’ ability to speak with loved ones by providing free phone calls during most of the pandemic. Since mid-March, ODOC has published hundreds of posts to our social media platforms regarding our pandemic response. The agency also produces and publishes videos demonstrating staffs’ efforts to serve the inmate population.
ODOC takes seriously our constitutional mandate to provide all inmates with core services, including medical care, nutrition, hygiene, and mental health needs."