The video was apparently recorded by an inmate and shows a pair of inmates with ropes made of cloth around their necks, threatening to hang themselves because of the COVID-19 positive inmates.
“We’re not having no more people come in here with that symptom. We’re not trying to put no more lives at risk,” one of the inmates said in the video.
Another inmate claims that three people with the virus had been brought into the jail and had not been properly quarantined.
Etowah County Sheriff Jonathon Horton in the Gadsden Times disputed the claims that there were inmates with COVID-19.
Mr Horton said all inmates with symptoms have been screened and that the detention center has not had any cases of positive results.
The sheriff said an investigation was launched to determine how the inmate came to possess a phone.
Mr Horton claims that people have been trying to use the coronavirus as a means to avoid jail time. He said two individuals told jail staff they’d tested positive for COVID-19 despite there having been no confirmed cases in the county.
“You ask them where they’re from, and they say ‘Etowah County,’ then you tell them ‘there’s no positive cases in the county’ and their stories start to change,” Mr Horton said.
The pandemic has prompted several mass inmate-releases across the country to prevent jails and prisons from becoming viral hotbeds.
In Los Angeles, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he planned to release 1,700 inmates, nearly 10 percent of the county’s jail population.
The Los Angeles Daily News reported that all of the inmates being released had less than 30 days left on their sentences and all of them were convicted on nonviolent misdemeanours.
Mr Villanueva said that after this release there wasn’t likely to be another, so the jail still needed to prepare for dealing with a potential outbreak inside the prison. He said there are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus inside the jail.
In New Jersey, hundreds of prisoners have been released over the last week, and more than 1,000 prisoners are expected to be released in New York City.
In Utah, county jails are also releasing around 200 inmates, though the state prison - that the Salt Lake Tribune reports houses 6,500 inmates - said it doesn’t intend to release any inmates.
Activists have pushed for authorities to release inmates as coronavirus spreads into prison facilities across the nation.
CBS News reported that the ACLU sent letters to federal, state and local officials urging them to release any inmates who were at heightened risk of infection.
Louis Reed, who worked in a federal prison for 14 years and currently organises with an initiative to decrease the prison population, #Cut50, said “pandemonium” broke out in jails when prisoners learned about potential outbreaks.
“When I was on that side of life and I found out about an outbreak, I would literally be shaking in my boots,” Mr Reed said. “It feels as if you’re in a car driving 100 miles an hour with no seat belt on, not knowing whether the car is going to crash.”