People Petition for Prison Visits to Resume Amid Pandemic

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The pandemic knows no boundaries; coronavirus has reached behind bars, infecting Kentucky inmates as well as prison staff. The Green River Correctional Complex was hit hard early on, with positive COVID-19 cases announced. Visitation is suspended there, and at all prisons, “until further notice.” Family members of the people in prison are petitioning for visits to be allowed to resume. 

The last time Leslee Winstead was able to see her son, who is at Green River, was back in February. That was before the pandemic began. She’s hardly had phone calls since then. The contact she’s been able to have has been brief calls, spanning 10 minutes at most. She longs to see her son again. 

Without visitation, Winstead claims the mental health of the men is harmed. It’s also hurtful to her and her family, to be kept away. The 25-year-old young man has been serving time for about five years, and it’s still difficult for the Winstead family, so far away.

“I get really upset and I have days I still cry. It’s been five years, but I still get really upset,” says Winstead.

“He’s still my son, no matter what. And I’ll always love him unconditionally. My son has a little brother, younger brother, and he misses him. He’s punished, too, for not being able to see him. That’s the sad part about the families that are sometimes forgotten about while their loved ones are incarcerated,” she continues. 

As of September 9, 2020, at 2:30 p.m. EST, the Department of Corrections (DOC) reports there have been a total of 895 inmate coronavirus cases; that’s 43 active inmate cases. The DOC says there have been 151 employee cases, and there are actively seven cases. Three people who tested positive, have died. Another person’s cause of death is under review.

The Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet, J. Michael Brown, announced last month that another 646 inmates were released, by executive order. That’s a total of 1,846 people commuted. Brown said 121 of them were classified as medically vulnerable to coronavirus, and 525 of them were nearing the end of their sentence within 6 months. Those released were not people convicted of any violent or sexual crime.

Spectrum News 1 has reached out to the DOC for comment and indication on when visits can resume but have not yet heard back from the department.