Un-masked guards, little access to soap: Inmates at Fairbanks Correctional Center voice concerns after latest outbreak

Published: Oct. 24, 2020 at 6:58 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Inmates at Fairbanks Correctional Center have voiced concerns about Correctional Officers not wearing masks when around inmates, not getting the results of their Covid-19 tests, not having enough access to soap, and not being able to communicate with family members.

On Friday F.C.C. reported 55 inmates and one staff member have tested positive for Coronavirus. The correctional center currently has 273 inmates, 14 people over its maximum capacity.

Several inmates called the KTVF station with concerns.

The group of five inmates all expressed concerns about correctional officers ignoring the governor’s memo that stated after July 22nd, masks are required to be worn by all staff while in the correctional center.

“The guards started wearing masks 4 days ago, but before that there was guards that would walk around without masks even in the hot zone,” Duane Kaase said who has been at F.C.C. almost a month.

Cody Lambert says the mask wearing depends on the guard.

“Certain C.O.'s [corrections officers] will come in here and they will have their masks on, other C.O.'s will come in and they don’t have a mask on at all, throughout the entire day.” Lambert said.

William Dozette has been at F.C.C. for 3 weeks.

“When I was in here at the beginning I noticed they weren’t using facemasks and there is still C.O.’s wandering around with no facemasks trying to come into our dorm and serve us our food or give us our clothes that don’t even have facemasks,” Dozette said. “We ask them, why don’t you have a facemask? Because they go back to A wing, B wing, C wing, down to laundry, they are everywhere.”

Beyond mask wearing, inmates say they have yet to get the results back from their Covid-19 tests that were administered last Saturday.

“We got tested Saturday night and they said we would have results Monday,” Martin ‘Sooga’ Nelson said, who has been an inmate at F.C.C. almost a month. “Tuesday they came and tested us again, still no results from the Saturday test. Last night they came and tested us again, still no results from the two previous tests.”

Jeremy Fish said the communications from the Correctional Officers and the Superintendent, Rob Jeffords, is non-existent.

“There is still no communication from the guy who runs this place, coming and telling his prisoners, his population, ‘Hey you guys, we’re in this together,’ or 'Hey you guys this is what we are doing to make this better,” Fish said. “There is none of that.”

Nelson worries that inmate stress could bubble over into something more serious.

“This pandemic effect everyone, but keeping inmates in the dark, not giving us info, telling us it’s above their pay grade, is not helping,” Nelson said. “If that is the case then at least send the commissioner around to the jails or somebody that can answer some questions. I am in no way making any threats but at this rate, it’s only a matter of time before inmates start retaliating and they have a much larger problem.”

Inmates also say not having visitation from their families has impacted their anxiety worse than it already is.

Since the pandemic visitation has been closed at F.C.C. and inmates are given one free 15 minute phone call a week, unless they can afford to purchase more.

“I was doing good out there, but I slipped up, I did a bad thing and I take responsibility for that,” Dozette said. “To have limited, very limited access to my kids and it’s not helping. Now I’m building up more frustration. I’m losing sight at what I wanted to do with my family. I am changing my life around, but being here and not being able to talk to them and everything, I’m losing focus.”

Nelson said other correctional centers have facetime capabilities, but at F.C.C. there is no visitation or facetime.

“If they are not going to let us facetime with our families, I don’t understand why we can’t use the visitation room.” Nelson said. “Our families would be on the other side of a glass through a phone. And from my understanding this one of the only facilities in the state that doesn’t have that capability.”

Jeremy Fish also expressed concerns over not having enough access to soap.

Sarah Gallagher with the Department of Correction said inmates are being provided free soap during COVID and have always been able to purchase soap from Commissary.

Fish said it’s not enough. He said their dorm has to beg Correctional Officers to get soap in the sink area.

Among other complaints all the inmates said since the pandemic their meals have become smaller, due to all meals now being delivered in disposable styrofoam trays.

Fish said he hasn’t left his dorm in two weeks.

“We have no (one) telling us, 'hey sorry about this guys, another week, another two weeks, three weeks, another thirty days..” Fish said.

All inmates could agree that they would like more communication from their correctional officers and the F.C.C. Superintendent.

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