By Whitney Wyatt/The Red River Sun—
CHILDRESS – The T.L. Roach Unit in Childress was the last Texas prison to get a COVID-19 case, but it had 28 percent of the cases in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) last week.
The COVID-19 cases lowered to 21 cases on Friday, Nov. 20, according to Childress Regional Medical Center. But as of Monday, Nov. 16, the prison had 621 active offender cases, explained Director of Communication for TDCJ Jeremy Desel.
“The entire unit is on precautionary lockdown,” Desel said. “We mass tested all prisoners and staff.”
Even though they only had six that were symptomatic cases, Desel said they were all quarantined.
“The vast majority are asymptomatic,” Desel said. “But we don’t treat them differently. Asymptomatic cases are checked twice daily. If they show signs or symptoms, they are moved.”
An additional 489 offenders were in medical restriction because they might have been exposed, he added. The T.L. Roach Unit also had 34 staff COVID-19 cases.
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, all movement is restricted, Desel said. For example, meals are delivered in their cells.
The Red River Sun received two separate emails claiming that the inmates were not being treated properly during this lockdown.
When asked about this, Desel had this to say: “Absolutely incorrect. It’s the same amount of food; it’s just delivered differently. We are doing everything we can. You can’t have people congregating around a phone.”
So far, Desel said they have administered more than 300,000 COVID-19 tests at Texas prisons. The highest number of COVID-19 cases they saw was close to 5,000 inmates in the state back in June. It went down to 113 cases a few weeks ago. As of Monday, Nov. 16, there were 2,200 prisoners with COVID-19 in Texas.
“We’ve tested more offenders and staff than any correctional agency in the country,” Desel said. “Other states are following our example.”