Cummins Unit inmates angry over lack of COVID care & food shortages


Cummins inmate: "I gotta' make sure I stay alive"

Cummins Unit inmate letter 4/22/20. Used with permission Thaddeus Hamilton.

LINCOLN COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — There was nothing normal about the situation at the Cummins Unit State Prison in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on Saturday evening, May 2 — trash cans were set on fire and windows were busted out at one of the barracks [East] by inmates, according to video taken from inside the prison and later shared.

According to several inside sources it was learned that inmates were despondent over lack of food over the past several weeks and lack of inmate protection from COVID-19.

The Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) Chief of Staff Solomon Graves said, “Officers are still assessing the situation. We remain in full control of the facility, which has been on lock down since mid-April.” [Read full statement below].

Photo used with permission from Thaddeus Hamilton. Saturday evening meal at Cummins Unit East.

Another inmate wrote:

“Momma, … they’re shooting guns, spraying mace, and spraying the fire hose, beating up on inmates cause their [sic] are going off about getting bologna sandwich for dinner.”

Word got out via Facebook and emails from inmates’ families as early as mid-April. The message, time and again, was that the inmates were hungry and concerned over lack of COVID-19 protection gear — masks, sanitizers, and sharing cells with inmates who had tested positive for the virus.


GRAPHIC LANGUAGE. Cummins Unit East video, 5/2/2020. Used with permission via Thaddeus Hamilton, Founder of Fathers of Faith. Little Rock, AR

Thaddeus Hamilton is the Founder of Fathers of Faith, and is a community activist based in Little Rock.

The organization is anti-violence and at the same time supports justice for everyone — including prisoners especially during the COVID-19 crisis. “This is an example of how cruel and unusual it can be at the prisons,” said Hamilton referring to the food situation.


Our officers are  still assessing the situation. Until their work is complete, providing a cause would be purely speculative. It does appear that the situation was contained to one barracks, with inmates breaking out windows and setting what is believed to be a trashcan on fire. We remain in full control of the facility, which has been on lock-down since mid-April as a part of our COVID response efforts. No staff were injured. No inmate injuries have been identified. 

On Saturday, May 2, it was confirmed two Cummins Unit inmates died from COVID-19 at the Jefferson County Medical Center. Both men were in their 60s.

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