Vulnerable Inmates Left in Prison as Covid Rages

On Dec. 9, Rae Haltzman, who is 65 and has high blood pressure, started vomiting but was unable to summon help. She lay down by the locked door of the visiting room with a blanket “waiting for someone to come,” she wrote in a statement filed with the court. When she spotted a psychologist leaving the building, “I banged on the door and asked him to get a medic.”

Ms. Haltzman was eventually hospitalized for nine days. After being discharged on Dec. 18, she was placed alone in a locked room “that is usually used for suicide watch, or drug withdrawal cases,” she wrote. She was kept there until Jan. 2, even though the hospital’s infectious diseases specialist had said it was not necessary for her to be isolated.

“I had panic attacks from being left in the room alone for so long,” she said. “I felt as though the whole time I was being punished for getting sick.”

Another inmate, Denise Bonfilio, also became acutely ill in the visiting room of the men’s prison. Her lips turned blue, and she was sent to the hospital. She was found to be dehydrated but was not admitted, and she returned to the room.

Because of her food allergies, Ms. Bonfilio often could not eat the meals that were provided, which may have contributed to her dehydration. In an interview, she described the treatment in the isolation room as “physically and emotionally brutal.”

“It was like survival of the fittest,” Ms. Bonfilio said.

The inmates had to order items they needed from the commissary, recalled Ms. Torres, who was granted home confinement on Dec. 23. “We literally bought Halls, ibuprofen and hot tea,” she said.

“We were all scared,” Ms. Spagnardi said. “We were all thinking we were going to die in there, and nobody would know until count.”

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