TABOR CITY, N.C. (WECT) -Tabor Correctional Center continues to top the list for the most active cases across all of the state’s prison facilities.
North Carolina prisons as a whole are seeing a surge: the rate of coronavirus cases in NC’s prisons is more than four times the state’s average case rate, according to the Marshall Project.
As of Monday, Tabor Correctional alone has more than 200 active cases of the coronavirus. Pender County has the next highest number of active cases at 76. Neither Columbus Correctional nor New Hanover County Correctional have any active cases.
Tabor City Correctional holds about 1,700 inmates, meaning there are hundreds of inmates and staff, and countless loved ones worried each day as the case count grows.
Kendra Sanders says her 23-year-old son, who is at Tabor Correctional, tested positive for the virus.
The pandemic hasn’t been easy on her family; Sanders lost her mother to COVID-19 this fall and even battled the virus herself.
“It’s just heartbreaking it really is; it’s just I want my son out. I’ve always taken care of him when he was sick, you know, because he has some surgeries from dirt bike injuries and things like that. In just him not being able to be near me, you know...I mean, he’s my baby,” said Sanders. “I want to talk to him every day, I want to hear his voice, you know, here. He had phlegm...I wanted to hear how he was breathing and I can tell, you know. I talked him all the time and his voice sounds like...I know he was having problems.”
She wasn’t exactly surprised to hear the news. Just a few days prior, her son told her a man in a bunk just a few feet away had come down with the virus.
The mother says her son is okay now, but believes the protocols the Department of Public Safety (DPS) put in place to curb the spread of the virus weren’t enough to protect the inmates.
“They are not following CDC protocols to have them 6 feet apart. There’s no way...they’re in dormitories. They have bunks, you can reach out and touch somebody three feet apart. No partitions up—if you’re coughing in the night, its just particles falling everywhere,” said Sanders.
Her son has had issues getting supplies from the canteen recently and shared numerous sanitary concerns with her over the past months, ranging from only having one cloth mask, to inmates having to share the same bar of soap.
DPS has started programs ramping up testing among staff and offenders alike, but the active cases at Tabor Correctional only continue to grow.
Prison staff and inmates will be immunized when a vaccine comes down, but in the meantime loved ones like Sanders are left to sit and wait for the vaccine to come, or their family member to be released.
DPS has instituted dozens of cleaning and isolation protocols since the onset of the pandemic. You can read about them here.
WECT reached out to see how protocols are being enforced and learned there are inspection teams going around to the different facilities. At least two COVID-19 inspection teams visited Tabor Correctional over the past two weeks to visually inspect the operations, and they found the facility is following the established COVID protocols.