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Deaths of two longtime TDCJ employees linked to coronavirus

“The unexpected loss of one who is loved so deeply is a tragic time," the TDCJ said.
Credit: TDCJ
Chaplain Akbar Shabazz (left) and Keith Goodman (right).

AMARILLO, Texas — A chaplain with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice passed away Thursday following a three-week battle with COVID-19. It's the second employee death linked to coronavirus that the department has confirmed.

Chaplain Akbar Shabazz fell ill with coronavirus symptoms April 3 and was taken to Methodist Hospital in The Woodlands.

Shabazz began his more than 40 years of service as a TDCJ volunteer and joined the agency as an employee in September 1977. 

He severed as regional area Muslim chaplain. In this role, he coordinated Taleem classes, Jum’ah services and led the coordination of yearly Ramadan observances.

“Chaplain Shabazz was a part of the foundation of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice,” said TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier said. “His dedication to his faith, his family, and this agency will not ever be forgotten. I considered him a personal friend and this loss to all is heavy. We can only hope that the thoughts and prayers of the TDCJ family help to lighten the burden.”

Earlier in the week, TDCJ officials confirmed a veteran correctional officer had also died of coronavirus-related illness.

Keith Goodman, 52, died Tuesday at a hospital in Amarillo. He worked at the Bill Clements Unit there.

Goodman was rushed to the hospital on Friday, April 17, after suffering an apparent stroke. An autopsy confirmed he had COVID-19 and it probably caused his death.

“All of the thoughts and prayers of the entire Texas Department of Criminal Justice go out to the Goodman family,“ TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier said. “The unexpected loss of one who is loved so deeply is a tragic time and the TDCJ family sends its strength and extends its profound sympathy to the Goodman family to get through this difficult time.”

Goodman’s wife Kimberly Pride-Goodman also works in the Texas prison system.

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On Wednesday, the TDCJ announced the deaths of two inmates that are likely connected to the coronavirus.

James Nealy, 68, was found unresponsive in his cell at the Wynne Unit on April 15 and was later pronounced dead. An autopsy showed he was also COVID positive and it likely caused his death. He hadn’t shown of symptoms of the virus before his death, the TDCJ said.

Nealy was serving a 99-year sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon out of Bell County.

Willie Eanes, 84, was hospitalized for COVID-19 and other medical issues when he died on April 20.

Eanes was serving a 45-year sentence for murder out of Tarrant County.

Six other TDCJ deaths are under investigation for COVID, pending autopsy results.

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In total there are 252 TDCJ employees, staff or contractors who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 594 offenders who have tested positive.

16,049 offenders are on medical restriction because they may have had contact with either an employee or offender with a positive or pending COVID-19 test.

There are now 12 employees and 47 offenders who have medically recovered from COVID-19.

These prisons are on lockdown as a precaution: Baten, Bell, Beto, Byrd, Carole Young, Clements, Crain, Darrington, Eastham, Ellis, Estelle, Fort Stockton, Garza West, Gist, Goree, Gurney, Hughes, Hutchins, Jester 4, Jordan, Leblanc, Lopez, Michael, Middleton, Murray, Pack, Ramsey, Robertson, Sanchez, Scott, Smith, Stiles, Stringfellow, Telford, Terrell, Woodman, Wynne.

The precautionary lockdowns extend for 14 days from the date of a positive test. Those dates may be extended to the date of the most recent positive test.