EXCLUSIVE: ADOC Commissioner tackles rising COVID cases in Limestone, North Alabama Correctional Facility

After weeks of requesting interviews, WAFF 48 News' Jenna Rae talks to the prison commissioner for the state.
Updated: Nov. 17, 2020 at 6:43 PM CST
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MORGAN AND LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WAFF) - As COVID-19 began spreading throughout our communities back in March, WAFF has received dozens of viewer questions regarding our local prison facilities.

Now, COVID cases in two north Alabama facilities are escalating.

The two facilities:

  • Limestone Correctional Facility
  • North Alabama Correctional Facility, also known as Decatur work-release.

WAFF has reported on these facilities over the last several months regarding concerns of massive COVID-19 outbreaks inside two prison facilities here in the Tennessee Valley.

Inmates and families of inmates from both the Limestone and Decatur correctional facilities have reached out to me regarding COVID-19 concerns.

They say they’re worried about how quickly the virus was spreading among inmates, as well as access to testing and personal protective equipment.

And after several weeks of trying to get the ADOC Commissioner on camera, we have answers.

WAFF’s Jenna Rae talked exclusively with the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Commissioner.

He says the main concern and effort going on in prisons appears to mitigating the spread.

In September, ADOC expanded testing capabilities to offer more testing inside these facilities. Over the last two months, numbers in both Decatur and Limestone have skyrocketed.

Another major concern is staffing.

Dunn says employees are given questionnaires, masks and hand sanitizer. Yet, more staff is out now because of COVID-19. Right now, 29 Limestone Correctional Facility employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

In the North Alabama Facility, 21 have active cases of the virus.

While screening has been taking place at these facilities since March, Dunn claims the ADOC didn’t have mass testing capabilities until mid-September.

The commissioner says when an inmate is tested or exhibiting symptoms, they’re placed in one of three levels of isolation within the facility.

There’s also a very strict isolation policy for new or transferred inmates. It’s an intake center in Central Alabama where new or transferred inmates are given a COVID test, and held for two weeks before entering a new prison environment.

While Commissioner Dunn says several steps are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, they are still seeing dozens of active cases among inmates and employees in both Limestone and Decatur Facilities.

For now, he says they will continue with strict protocols to monitor the spread of COVID-19 the best they can.

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