A CLOSER LOOK: Cummins inmate recovering from surgery; COVID-19 concerns

A Closer Look

"Mama, I had never seen a dead body before"

Elijah McCord, ADC photo

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — One Cummins Unit inmate, serving time for burglary and property theft, is supposed to be released in May 2021. But, now he feels like he’s serving a death sentence.

Elijah McCord, 23, had his jaw broken when he was hit with a lock, “by some guy,” at the Tucker Unit in February. He was transferred to the Cummins Unit Infirmary and had surgery where screws and a metal plate were inserted, according to his mom Kathy Hughes.

After weeks of not being able to communicate, McCord’s fiancé, Hope Montgomery, spoke with him at the end of May.

“The reason for the lack of communication is because he [McCord] was transferred from the infirmary to ‘the hole/solitary.’ This transfer was not for bad behavior, it was due to needing more space in the infirmary for COVID-19 patients,” Montgomery said she was told by McCord.

He said he’s not feeling well, “but I don’t know if it’s from the heat or COVID,” said Montgomery.

Montgomery and Hughes said they have called to talk with the warden numerous times, but have been told he’s not in. “We have not been able to reach him,” said Hughes.

The ADC’s Communications Director Cindy Murphy said, “they cannot discuss the medical issues of inmates.” Murphy also said, “families with concerns should call Central Office and speak to the Deputy Director over the facility where the inmate is housed.”

Our concern is for his general health, said Hughes and Montgomery.

McCord was in the infirmary when another inmate was brought in, Derick Coley. The 29-year-old died at the infirmary on May 2. Hughes said he told her, “mom, ‘I’ve never seen a dead body before.'”


Derick Coley was wheeled out on a gurney of the prison’s isolation unit late Friday, May 1, after having complained about feeling sick, according to his family.

The Lincoln County’s coroner report states, “due to a prison incident involving other prisoners burning trash cans and breaking glass, they were moving Mr. Coley to another part of the unit when he had a medical episode in the hall and was taken to the infirmary, where he was worked on and then passed away.”

The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory said two testings have been done and the cause of the death will be released by next week, June 15.

An Arkansas Department of Corrections statement about the disturbance said, “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.”

However, an inmate wrote that the outbreak was far worse than one barrack. “The reality was that the riot was in 12 barracks.”

Coley’s family believes the riots were initiated, in part, because of his death, other inmates and families said it was due to poor meal distribution.

Wellpath provides medical service to the Cummins Unit inmates. An email and three calls were made to the agency asking how many health providers are at the Cummins Unit. Wellpath’s VP Corporate Communications & Public Affairs Judy Lilley stated:

“Wellpath is staffed at Arkansas to meet the standard of care and acuity of the patient population. Wellpath’s business is grounded in providing excellent patient care, and in providing excellent service and value for our clients.”


McCord was COVID-19 tested while in the infirmary, and in May when he was transferred to “the hole.” On June 8, McCord was retested for COVID-19, and his jaw is on the mend.

He’s told his mom he has regrets for getting in trouble with the law. A bigger regret is that he missed the birth of his son, who is now seven months old.

Son of Hope Montgomery and Elijah McCord. Courtesy family photo.

A CLOSER LOOK: COVID-19 behind bars; an inmate’s letter

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