U.S. Marshals report 28 prisoners test for COVID-19 at private detention facility

TENNESSEE — More than two dozen prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 at the West Tennessee Detention Facility.

FOX13 spoke to a Memphis family whose son is one of those confirmed cases. The family said they’ve been trying to get answers for days.

The inmate’s mother said the last few days have been so uneasy because of the severity of COVID-19 and the lack of information. She said her son had concerns about the virus last week, but said he didn’t hear from the U.S. Marshals about the infection until Monday.

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“Left for dead” was the subject line for an from the prisoner detailing the spread of COVID-19 inside the facility.

“I was just uncertain about what was going on,” his mother told FOX13, “I was just devastated, and I have been.”

FOX13 talked with the prisoner’s mother over the phone. We aren’t revealing her name because of her job but she wanted to share her story.

She said her son told her about his possible exposure to COVID-19 on Friday. A few days later, he tested positive.

“He sounds ok,” she said. “He’s trying to make the best of it and his concern is that they take care of them. He says there are men just laying in bed and sick, he just wants medical care for the sick.”

The U.S. Marshal Service said 28 prisoners tested positive for the virus at the private prison owned and operated by CoreCivic, but said they don’t know how the prisoners were infected or when the first case happened at the facility.

A spokesperson for the prison company said they have and will continue to follow CDC guidelines for COVID-19.

In a statement to FOX13, CoreCivic said in part, "Our health services administrators cooperate fully with local and state health departments, and our protocols mirror local, state, and federal recommendations. Our plan and practices build on the extensive work we do every day to run clean, healthy and safe facilities."

The company said “All of our facilities are actively promoting the following three health habits for inmates, detainees and residents, as well as staff: regular hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette (coughing or sneezing into a sleeve or tissue), and avoiding touching one’s face. We also encourage the practice of social distancing for all individuals within our facilities.”

But the Memphis mother who spoke to FOX13 said that isn’t happening.

“No. There’s no six feet social distancing, I could hear everything. The guy is right there coughing, coughing right here with my son. I’m disturbed at this time,” she said.

At this time, CoreCivic said none of its 159 employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

A U.S. Marshals spokesperson said:

The U.S. Marshals Service does not own or operate detention facilities but partners with state and local governments using intergovernmental agreements to house prisoners.

Additionally, USMS houses prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prison facilities and private detention facilities.

The USMS is responsible for the care and custody of approximately 66,000 prisoners each day through agreements or contracts with those facilities.

These facilities are responsible for the medical care that USMS prisoners receive, and they work closely with state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that infectious diseases are promptly identified and treated.

All training protocols, quarantine decisions or policy adjustments are made at the facility level.