'He didn’t want to die in prison’: Families raise concerns about inmates being exposed to COVID-19

9 Investigates has received more than a dozen messages from family members concerned about COVID-19 in state prisons, and the lack of testing, despite the growing number of cases.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Donate McCloud’s sister started her day with us at 7 on a Tuesday for an interview because she is desperate to get her brother’s story out.

9 Investigates has received more than a dozen messages from family members concerned about COVID-19 in state prisons, and the lack of testing, despite the growing number of cases.

Read: ‘Every time he would breathe it would hurt’: Transportation workers among those dead from COVID-19 in Orange, Osceola counties

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The messages were in response to a report by investigative reporter Daralene Jones who found out nearly half the inmates who’ve tested positive are inside two Central Florida prisons.

“My brother reached out and kept saying he wasn’t receiving the treatment he needed and he didn’t want to die in prison,” Shankeiya McCloud said.

“Coronavirus

The messages he sent from Tomoka State Prison in Daytona Beach alerted his family that he was in medical isolation because of a “sky-high” temperature due to the coronavirus.

In another message the diabetic with an already weak immune system urged his family to pray and call a lawyer, because he feared he would die, and he said the inmates felt like “sitting ducks” in isolation.

As of Tuesday, 134 corrections officers had tested positive statewide in prisons, up from just a day earlier. It’s one reason Rep. Randolph Bracy told us the community should be concerned.

“Corrections officers who have to come home and may expose people on the outside, too, so this is a crisis we need to pay attention to,” Bracy said.

The DOC told 9 Investigates its testing priorities align with recommendations from the CDC. Inmates are tested if they have symptoms, and department of health helps with treatment guidelines.

There are no plans for mass testing or early release for some inmates, which has been done in other states and even some federal prisons. “He said they just received masks and only changing them out every five days, not allowed to use hand sanitizer,” McCloud’s sister said.

Tomoka has had 84 inmates test positive, the most of any state prison. More than a thousand are in medical quarantine, because they could have it.

“He needs the correct treatment, that’s all we’re asking,” McCloud said.

They won’t know if he’s getting treatment until they hear from him again. Visitation is suspended because of COVID-19.