2021 Digital Video Storytelling, Medium Form finalist

Prison Officials in Kansas Ignored the Pandemic. Then People Started Dying.


About the Project

This video tells the story of how nearly 900 men contracted COVID-19 while incarcerated at Lansing Correctional Facility in northeastern Kansas. Despite pleas from worried families and inmates, state and prison officials consistently underplayed the threat of COVID-19 at the facility, initially failing to distribute and require masks, isolate infected inmates, or implement widespread testing. By the end of May 2020, four incarcerated men and two staff members had died, and the prison had become the 14th largest cluster of coronavirus cases in the country and the largest in Kansas.

Through interviews and recorded video visitations, the story highlights the anxiety, uncertainty, and grief that afflicted the incarcerated men and their loved ones, as institutional negligence and misinformation enabled the outbreak to surge. Additionally, footage recorded on personal cell phones by incarcerated individuals provides a rare first-hand perspective of a riot that occurred inside the prison as inmates protested the COVID conditions. Altogether, the video offers an intimate and sobering look at the realities of life inside a prison during the height of the coronavirus surge last year, at a time when government officials failed to act.