NewsCommunityVista SemanalLocal


Hundreds infected with COVID-19 at Lompoc prison, daughter of inmate describes info blackout

Posted at 8:13 AM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 11:13:16-04

Over half the inmates at the federal prison in Lompoc are infected with coronavirus and one woman said her attempts at finding out whether her father is one of the patients have been futile.

"Infuriating, frustrating, scary," Holly Mowry, whose father is incarcerated, said.

Emotions come in waves as Mowry reads headlines on her computer in Florida.

Mowry said news stories are the only official information she has about the coronavirus outbreak at the prison.

To help mitigate the spread of the virus, Federal Bureau of Prisons Public Information Officer Justin Long said phone use by inmates has temporarily been suspended at the prison.

Mowry said her only means of communication with her father, Charles Molesworth, is by mail.

"The letters I've gotten from my dad basically said that if one person gets it, we're all going to get it," Mowry said.

Outgoing phone calls and emails are restricted through May 18, according to Long.

"This action was taken to prevent transmission of the virus by multiple people touching keyboards and telephone handsets," Long said in an email statement. "FCI Lompoc will continue to evaluate this approach and will make these communication avenues available as soon as possible."

Those restrictions mean limited communication between inmates and their families on the outside.

"I decided one day I really needed to call one day and find out, was he sick was he one of the ones reported sick, and they won't tell me," Mowry said.

Mowry suspects the information is being withheld due to laws protecting personal health records. But she believes her father would sign off the record release if given the chance.

Until then, Mowry waits anxiously for her father's letters.

"As soon as I got one, I rip it open and scan all six pages to see if there's anything that says I'm sick," Mowry said.

Mowry's 69-year-old father, who is serving a 5-year prison sentence, has yet to report he's ill.

But over half of the 1,044 inmates confined at the prison in Lompoc are now infected with COVID-19.

"It is a living space that is congregate so as a result, we don't have much control over it," Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne said.

With the increase in cases comes the creation of a new on-site patient care option.

"The prison has set up additional hospital rooms on site so that will reduce the impact on our local hospital," Osborne said. "They're also ramping up testing."

For Mowry, more tests and more on-site care is a step in the right direction. But it's still not enough to ease her worried mind.

"I've never once asked for his sentence to be shortened, never asked for leniency, or any special treatment," Mowry said. "I'm just asking that family members that have done nothing wrong, committed no crime, have the peace of knowing that if their loved one is sick, they'd know before they take their last breath."

According to Long, any inmate with COVID-19 symptoms is placed in isolation for a minimum of 14 days until testing negative for the virus or being cleared by medical staff.

"Under enhanced modified operations, inmates are limited in their movements within the institution, with inmate movement in small numbers authorized for access to Commissary, laundry, showers, telephone and electronic messaging access, medical and mental health care, and some essential work details or work assignments," Long said in an email statement. "Symptomatic inmates are not placed on any work details or work assignments.

As of this report, two inmates at the Lompoc prison have died from the virus.