Two detainees in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Alabama threatened to jump from a railing with bedsheets tied around their necks because of concerns they were being kept alongside new arrivals exposed to the coronavirus.
The two men are seen in a traumatic video, streamed on Facebook Live and acquired by the Washington Post, tying their bed sheets to the railings of the upper floor of the detention block and threatening to jump.
The hours-long stand off on Friday, March 20, came after three new detainees on the block said they had been transported with a person who was visibly ill and wearing a mask.
Other detainees believed the arrivals had been exposed to the coronavirus and threatened to attempt suicide if the new detainees were not removed.
An inmate streamed a Facebook Live of a protest in which detainee threatened to kill themselves over their fears that new arrivals has been exposed to the coronavirus
Two inmates at Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Alabama threatened suicide on March 20 in a protest live streamed on Facebook if newly arrived detainees they feared had been exposed to the the novel coronavirus were not removed from the unit
In the terrifying video taken in an immigration detention unit in Gadsden, Alabama, a detainee can be heard telling his fellow inmate that he has gone live as he begins to explain that two men on the opposite side of the floor to his cell are threatening to kill themselves because of coronavirus fears.
‘We’re not having no more people come in here with that symptom,’ an inmate is heard saying.
‘We’re not trying to put no more lives at risk.’
He explains that three arrivals believe they were exposed to the coronavirus and other inmates want them removed before the whole block was infected.
The detainee then turns the video on himself and his bunk mate who are both wearing face masks to protect themselves.
The man claims that there were three positive tests for coronavirus placed in with the other detainees, who were sleeping and unaware that the men had arrived.
He adds that officers threatened to shoot them with tazers and pellet guns as the detainees protested.
The stand off eventually came to an end several hours later, according to the Washington Post, after the three new arrivals were moved to a different unit in the same facility.
An agency spokesperson said that no ICE detainees had tested positive for coronavirus but did not say whether the three new detainees or the person they traveled with had been tested.
The stand-off lasted for several hours until the three new arrivals were removed
Outbreaks in prisons, jails and detention centers could be severe if the coronavirus hits as inmates lack space to distance themselves from others and have limited access to hygiene facilities that would allow them to adequately eradicate germs.
Fifty-two inmates at New York’s notorious Riker’s Island have already tested positive. They are believed to have infected convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein who also tested positive last week just days after his prison sentence began.
‘This is a real disaster waiting to happen,’ David Patton, the executive director of he nonprofit Federal Defenders of New York, told the Washington Post, the day after the first federal inmate tested positive at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
The number of cases in the US has rocketed over the last two weeks
As of Thursday there are over 83,000 cases of the virus in the US and over 1,000 deaths
‘These are places that are particularly susceptible to contagion.’
Criminal-justice reform advocates pushed President Donald Trump on Tuesday to allow for the ‘compassionate release’ of those most at risk in the country’s prisons who pose no threat to society.
On Monday, 14 senators from both parties penned a letter to the Justice Department, which oversees the federal prison system, asking for elderly, terminally ill and low-risk inmates to be released to home confinement.
‘We write to express our serious concern for the health and well being of federal prison staff and inmates in Federal custody, especially those who are most vulnerable to infection, and to urge you to take necessary steps to protect them,’ the lawmakers wrote to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal.
Signatories included Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Trump said in a press conference Sunday that he is considering an executive order on the matter.
‘We have been asked about that and we’re going to take a look at it,’ Trump said.
‘It’s a – it’s a bit of a problem. But when we talk about totally nonviolent – we’re talking about these are “totally nonviolent prisoners”. We are actually looking at that, yes.’
There are about 2.3 million people incarcerated in local jails and state and federal prisons across the United States, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.