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Family members upset with Dept. of Corrections handling of COVID-19 outbreaks

According to DOC data, Oshkosh Correctional Institution has had the most positive cases of the COVID-19 virus at 946.
Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 6:30 PM CST
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - An Oshkosh prison is reporting one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks among all state prisons with nearly half of its total inmate population having been infected.

Some family members accused the Wisconsin Department of Corrections of not doing enough to protect their loved ones.

Traci McMorran said she’s concerned about her 53-year-old fiancé, Thomas Bender, who contracted COVID-19 in prison.

“It’s not a matter of do you care about the prisoners, it’s a matter of getting corona under control,” McMorran said.

Bender is an inmate at Oshkosh Correctional Institution. As of Friday, it has 248 active cases of Covid.

According to DOC data, Oshkosh Correctional has had the most positive cases of Covid at 946.

“If they just continue the way they’re going, they’re just going to have to dig mass graves and the prison population will thin itself out,” McMorran said.

According to DOC’s spokesman, Oshkosh is under a “modified movement” as a result of the outbreak and it restricts prisoner movement in units with higher numbers of active cases.

An issue with McMorran and Michelle Warn is a lack of communication from the agency.

“Being rushed to the emergency room with an oxygen level of 67 percent is an emergency,” Warn said. “I should’ve been notified. Yes, I understand they can’t tell me where they’re taking him, but I should’ve been notified and I should’ve been updated.”

Warn’s fiancé, 29-year-old Jacob Scheer, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus at Redgranite Correctional Institution.

“They leave it up to the inmates to clean their own cells in their area,” Warn said. “They’re actually not being cleaned, and they just give them like soap and water.”

The DOC spokesman told Action 2 News the prison system is guided by policy on notifying families of health issues, which include an inmate spending more than two weeks at a hospital or when they’re on their death bed.

Both women said that policy should change.

They also recommend that inmates sign any paperwork to authorize the DOC to alert a family member of any health-related issues.

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