Fifth District City Commissioner Regina Hill disclosed Monday that her brother, 52-year-old Edward Hill, died last week after contracting the coronavirus while incarcerated in the South Bay Correctional Facility. He was scheduled to be released in less than a year.
At least three other inmates have also died in South Bay after testing positive for the virus. According to the Department of Corrections, more than 400 prisoners and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at that facility.
Hill held a press conference Monday morning, at which she called on state officials to “do the humane thing” and take steps to protect those who are incarcerated in correctional institutions, as well as those who are employed there. Inmates are in lockdown 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and do not have access to masks or hand sanitizer. This makes them especially vulnerable to being infected by visitors and staff.
“They went there to pay their debt to society; they deserve to have a family member pick them up and give them a second chance,” Hill said/. “They do not deserve to come back in a body bag.”
Hill said her brother had advised her that he had been given only one mask and was forced to live with infected inmates assigned to the same dorm.
The Commissioner said her brother was transferred to the hospital on July 14, but was not notified of his hospitalization until a week later. She then attempted to make arrangements to see him, but that process took even longer. She got to spend a few minutes with him, but said many families without the type of resources and influence she has do not fare so well.
State Senator Randolph Bracy, also on hand for the press conference, called the process “unacceptable,” and said he plans to introduce a bill called “Edward’s Law,” which will require inmates to designate a healthcare surrogate when they enter prison. That person would then have access to the inmate’s medical records and would be able to respond quickly if anything were to happen to them while locked up.
Bracy also wants to see more coronavirus testing of inmates and staff to help keep track of the number of cases inside the prisons.