‘He could die in there, like so many have:’ Families speak out as more Butner inmates die of COVID-19

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BUTNER, N.C. (WNCN) — A coronavirus outbreak continues at both the Butner low and medium-security prison facilities in Butner.

The COVID-19 outbreak has left four inmates dead and more than 80 inmates and staff infected.

Families with loved ones at Butner prison tell CBS 17 they are concerned for the inmates’ safety.

Inmate Matthew Clingerman said that he is concerned for his life as he said the prison has not been practicing proper social distancing.

“They had time to prepare for this and they did not,” Clingerman said. “We are stuck in a bathroom with 20 other inmates that may be sick.”

Clingerman said he is at Butner prison for a parole violation. His wife, Alayna Douglas, tells CBS 17 that she is concerned for the health and safety of her husband and the other inmates as the number of deaths continues to climb.

“They are locked in a bathroom with 20 something other people in tiny little cubicles, there’s no way to stay six feet away,” Douglas said.

She said she does not understand why Clingerman and more inmates cannot be released to home confinement, especially the inmates who are not violent offenders.

“There’s no reason for that person to be taking up the prison space when it’s so very badly needed,” Douglas said.

CBS 17 went to the Bureau of Prisons to get answers about Clingerman’s claims.

The BOP said that the prisons are requiring social distancing in the prison facilities. Officials said they have moved all of the inmates with the coronavirus to an isolated area and that all of the inmates and staff have been given Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in an effort to slow the spread.

As far as who can be released early, BOP officials said that includes prisoners who are near the end of their sentence, inmates with health risks, and older inmates.

The BOP said inmates who will not be released are inmates who are in prison for crimes against a person.

When asked about Matthew Clingerman’s case, the BOP has not yet said if he meets the requirements to be released for home confinement.

For now, Douglas said she remains concerned for her husband’s safety.

“He could die in there, like so many already have,” Douglas said.

According to the Bureau of Prisons website, they have placed more than 1,000 inmates in home confinement across the country, but they would not tell us an exact number for how many of those inmates are from the Butner prison facilities. 

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