Scott Crow | KGOU
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Scott Crow

‘We Are Still Human Beings’ Oklahoma Prisoners, Officials Adjust As COVID-19 Spreads

Sep 24, 2020
A woman waves from a prison window at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in 2019.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

In the early days of the pandemic, Geneva Phillips was ordered to stay in her bunk nearly all day for almost a month. She remembers being sore and miserable.

Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein believes it's unlikely there have only been two Oklahoma prisoners infected with COVID-19.
Courtesy Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein

Jonna Wolf is worried there are a lot more than the two COVID-19 cases being reported in Oklahoma’s population of nearly 24,000 prisoners.

Her fiancé, Griffin Davison, is finishing up a five-year prison term for convictions stemming from possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He has less than a year left.

Scott Crow is head of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Prisons across the United States are struggling with a rash of COVID-19 infections. In Oklahoma, two prisoners and nine corrections employees have tested positive for the disease.

StateImpact’s Quinton Chandler spoke with Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow about the state’s ability to test for COVID-19 in prisons.

Jason Page and Paul Mullaney inside the state Capitol in 2018.
Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Low pay is at the center of Oklahoma’s struggle to keep its prison employees.

Six-year veteran corrections officer Paul Mullaney quit over pay and working conditions just months after lawmakers approved a $2.00 raise for prison employees. He worked in the mental health unit of Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington.

The extra money wasn’t enough to keep him.