Families frustrated over COVID outbreak at Kettle Moraine prison

Relatives of inmates at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution have reached out to FOX6 with frustration after learning there are over 400 active positive cases of COVID-19 inside the prison. They allege the Wisconsin Department of Corrections is not doing enough for inmates.

Families FOX6 News spoke with said they want answers after learning the prison has the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin.

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

"I don't know about anybody else, but I am uncomfortable with how that is being operated," said Connie Webb from Indiana. 

Relatives of inmates, clearly frustrated. 

"They're all worried," said Kathy Nelson from Minnesota. "No one knows what to do."

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

FOX6 News has received multiple calls and emails over the situation at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections' COVID-19 dashboard showed 430 active positive cases of COVID-19 at the prison as of Wednesday. 

Some relatives of inmates from both in and outside Wisconsin allege there's not enough being done by prison officials, disputing statements the Department of Corrections made in a Tuesday report from FOX6. A DOC spokesman said all inmates were in quarantine and their movement was limited.

He added that extra cleaning protocols were in place and movies were streaming for entertainment.

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

"They didn't tell you the truth," said Webb. 

Webb disputes how the prison is handling quarantine. She says her son was COVID-free, but the prison put an inmate in his cell that was known to be positive. Now her son, who has seven more years left to serve, has tested positive. 

"My son has been deliberately infected," said Webb.

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution

Nelson said her grandson was trying to petition for release months ago due to a serious underlying health condition but was told he couldn't because there were no active cases inside the prison. He has now tested positive. Nelson said she is trying to figure out the fastest way to get him out. 
 
"I've called a couple of attorneys in Wisconsin because I am from Minnesota," she said.

FOX6 News once again reached out to the DOC Wednesday over the specific concerns and allegations coming from the relatives of inmates. A spokesperson acknowledged our media inquiry and said they would be responding.

"Do something to make that right," said Webb.

Statements from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections:

DOC on inmate quarantine and cleaning protocols:

"As of this week, all persons in our care at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution (KMCI) are quarantined in their rooms. Generally, the Wisconsin DOC has been isolating those who test positive and quarantining those who were directly or potentially exposed. Quarantine refers to limiting/restricting movement so individuals can be monitored to see if they become ill.

"It’s possible not everyone at KMCI has been exposed, but given the high number of cases at the institution and the fact cases are spread out amongst the facility’s housing units, the decision was made to quarantine all.

"KMCI does not have toilets/showers in individual rooms. So persons in our care have to come out of their rooms to shower and go to the bathroom. The showers and phones are now being used on a rotating basis, and we are limiting how many can go to the bathroom at the same time in an effort to maximize social distancing.

"All DOC locations have established updated cleaning protocols with an emphasis on sanitizing high touch surfaces, routine cleaning of critical areas and increased personal hygiene. Also, the DOC has been providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer in institution common areas for use by both staff members and persons in our care. And the DOC continues to emphasize to staff and persons in our care the importance of proper hand-washing and the effectiveness of face coverings."

DOC on allegations requirements for release of inmates with pre-existing conditions have changed multiple times:

"The DOC has very few tools it can use to outright release people, and I do not believe any of them have to do specifically with pre-existing conditions. One option for release is Extraordinary Health/Geriatric Release. State statute notes one must be a certain age and have a certain amount of time left on their sentence, limiting eligibility. The DOC informed some of those in our care in April that they might be eligible to apply. Some have applied, and the DOC’s Program Review Committee reviews the applications and forwards them to the courts, which ultimately decide if the person is released.

"But, again, this is not specific to pre-existing conditions. The DOC cannot release people for just having a pre-existing condition. And I do not think there has been any change to that statute this year."

DOC on allegations inmates with COVID are housed with inmates who have not tested positive:

"In general, persons in our care who test positive are isolated from those not infected and the best location for isolating is determined at each individual institution. However, our ability to isolate in this case is limited by the space available at the institution relative to the size of the outbreak.

"The DOC was previously moving some individuals in efforts to better isolate those with positive cases at KMCI. Weighing all the current factors at the institution, the decision was made to quarantine all those in our care in place and limit further movement.

"The DOC is doing the best it can to protect and care for all those in our care at KMCI – and our other institutions – during this public health crisis.

With 400+ COVID cases at Kettle Moraine prison, group seeks release

Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution has more than 400 positive cases of COVID-19, the highest in the state when it comes to active cases.