This past September marked the deadliest month for employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice since the pandemic began, the Dallas News reports. The department has said that COVID-19 has contributed to the deaths of at least 13 staff members last month. This news comes as just two months ago, the facility ended its mask mandate, and the state no longer requires vaccines.
For staff members, inmates and visitors alike, masks are no longer required to be worn. The department records a 70 percent total COVID-19 Vaccination rate, but relatives of those who have died argue that this should’ve never been dropped. Melissa Young believes safety protocols could have saved her boyfriend, Codie Whitley-Turner, who died last month from complications due to COVID-19. However, by end of September, the prisons department confirmed less than half of prison employees had been fully vaccinated, compared to 57 percent of inmates, meaning incarcerated individuals have been more receptive to getting the vaccine than staff members.