Former inmate who caught COVID-19 in a Georgia prison says the state isn’t doing enough


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – From filthy living conditions to worries of catching COVID-19 inmates at Georgia prisons say the state isn’t doing enough to keep them safe. These claims are coming from a former Coastal State Prison inmate who caught the virus.

Jonathan Melendez recorded a video as an inmate while inside Coastal State Prison that shows the conditions he has lived in for the last year. He’s now voicing concerns for inmates who are living in filthy conditions and about the state’s COVID-19 response.

“When I first found out I was sick I just kept praying and hoping I wouldn’t die,” Melendez told News 3.

He was one of 70 inmates at this prison who caught the virus. Prison records show six inmates have died so far. Melendez said he was put in isolation until he was released to go home in October.

“You could be banging on the door telling them you can’t breathe or your heart hurts. You’re not going to get a response for a while,” Melendez said.

He claims new inmates are being mixed in with current ones without quarantining for the required amount of time and they don’t get the proper sanitation products needed.

“They say they bring you sanitary soap and all this stuff on the internet but they don’t bring you nothing. The only thing we got were masks,” Melendez said.

News 3 reached out to the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) but they didn’t answer any of our questions directly. Instead, they sent us to their website.

It says, “The GDC is responding with all available resources to help prevent/mitigate the potential introduction and spread of coronavirus into our facilities.”

The site also says the GDC has suspended all non-essential inmate movement and there is enhanced facility sanitation. Masks have been given to each inmate.

In Brunswick, Melendez’s mother waited anxiously for months for him to come home. She’s now pleading to the state to do something more.

“He’s getting his life together but the system needs to care more about the people that are incarcerated. Just because we’re incarcerated doesn’t mean we’re dogs,” Leticia Melendez said.

“I wouldn’t wish prison or Coastal State Prison upon nobody in life. Not even my worst enemy,” Melendez said.

According to the GDC, all newly arriving inmates are given a COVID-19 test. Inmates who have symptoms are referred to a medical provider who will make the decision to test them.

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