Families of Airway Heights inmates demand answers, despite DOC assurances

AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — Loved ones of inmates at the Airway Heights Corrections Center stood outside the facility on Saturday, demanding action from the Department of Corrections in response to what they’re calling “cruel and unusual” treatment. 

The prison has been dealing with a massive COVID-19 outbreak, with nearly 800 inmates testing positive in just a matter of weeks. 

READ: COVID-19 outbreak grows to nearly 800 inmates at Airway Heights Corrections Center 

The most recent report from the Department of Corrections shows 792 inmates have contracted the virus. Family members who spoke with 4 News Now say those inmates are being held in poor conditions, forced to sleep on the floor and being deprived of showers and hot food in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. 

“We have not seen evidence to support these allegations,” the DOC said in a statement to 4 News Now. 

The DOC admitted access to phones, showers, and common areas were limited for a short period of time. 

“The health and safety of the incarcerated is the department’s priority, and once these moves to alternative housing locations were completed, incarcerated individuals were able to resume regular use of common areas with their cohorts, regular telephone use and regular shower schedules,” the DOC said. 

Furthermore, the DOC said inmates have always received hot meals. 

Despite this, families are demanding answers, saying that’s not what they’re being told by loved ones on the inside of AHCC. 

“These people, they have loved ones, they have children, and these are just- despite that they’re criminals- people out here love these people,” said demonstrator Danyl Finley. “They’re someone’s family.”

“Our loved ones, they are incarcerated, but they’re people, too,” Mattlani Walker added. “They’re human. As tax-payers, they need to know what DOC is doing when they house incarcerated people.”

Both Walker and Finley have loved ones in the prison. Finley’s husband tested negative for the virus, and Walker’s husband has yet to be tested.