ISOLATION & QUARANTINE AT AVENAL STATE PRISON

130 additional people have tested positive for COVID-19, including 115 inmates at Avenal State Prison.

Positive cases of coronavirus at the prison have increased significantly since May 18.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says the prison is currently testing as many inmates and staff as possible and following isolation and quarantine guidance to help slow the spread of the virus.

CLICK

COOK COUNTY JAIL GETS HELP FROM COLORADO NURSE

Kyle Mullica came to Chicago to fight COVID-19 on the front lines, picking one of the hottest spots in the city: the Cook County Jail.

“It was intense. It was a lot of hours. It was difficult being away from my family,” said Mullica, a registered nurse who works in the emergency room of a Colorado hospital.

He put his skills to use in Division 10, working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week, totaling five weeks straight.

“There’s this sense of duty, and a sense of calling on things like this. I wanted to use the skill that I had,” said Mullica, who also serves as a state representative in Colorado.

So with his wife’s support, he left home.

CLICK

BEDFORD HILLS PRISON IN CRISIS

“Ninety-six percent of staff here turn a deaf ear because they feel we deserve the cruelty, we deserve to be locked in a box for whatever crimes they believe we committed. The biggest problem here is no one has the mental capacity to separate professionalism from perceptions and personal views.”

Accounts have emerged in recent weeks from women incarcerated at Bedford Hills alleging that the facility has been providing inadequate and irregular meals, sometimes serving no more than half a cup of milk as breakfast.

Women inside are saying they are experiencing what amounts to solitary confinement through the 20-hour lockdowns that have been implemented since the onset of the pandemic.

CLICK

COVID-19 MAKES STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

“You know right now I don’t think it’s inmate versus staff,” he said. “Right now we are all trying to come together and get through this.”

Morale among staff is poor, according to the officer. “I wish we had more support from our administrators,” he said.

A correctional officer who works at the La Paz Unit at Yuma said his supervisors are lying to staff about how many inmates are infected with the virus.

“I was told an inmate I would be watching one day was being tested for scabies,” the officer said. “But when I spoke with the inmate he told me he was being tested for coronavirus.”

The correctional officer said the man’s test results came back positive on Saturday. “So I’ve been around this inmate for four or five days and he had it the whole time, and I’ve been without the proper protection,” the officer said.

He said all officers should be provided N95 masks.

CLICK

PRISON STAFF IN SAME BOAT AS PRISONERS: Sitting Ducks

More than six weeks after the first North Carolina inmate tested positive for COVID-19, the state is beginning to offer free testing for employees at correctional facilities.

More than 600 positive cases and five deaths have been reported just among inmates across state prisons in North Carolina, however the true number is likely much higher.

Only 4% of the state’s 32,000 inmates have been tested and 18 facilities have not performed any testing.

CLICK

THE TYRANNY OF FALSE HOPE

In Arizona, only 0.33 percent of the prison population has tested positive for COVID-19.

This may seem encouraging—until you realize that tests have only been administered to 533 people of a total daily population of 41,248. Meanwhile, in Marion Correctional Institution, a prison in Ohio that has conducted mass testing, 2,143 incarcerated individuals (nearly 90 percent of the facility’s population) have tested positive, and 14 have died.

These contrasting examples demonstrate a disturbing reality: We don’t have a good picture of how COVID-19 is ravaging the criminal justice system now, and it’s even more unclear what the system will look like in the future.

The criminal justice system has always been opaque. During the pandemic, it’s even worse.

CLICK

TAKING MEASURE OF A MEASURE

“It’s completely defeating the purpose. They’re taking measures just to say they took measures. They’re not doing anything to help us and everyone knows that.”

The State Department of Corrections is ramping up COVID-19 testing for some inmates and all staff across the state. “There’s 60 men to a pod and we have two man cells and there’s 30 on bottom, 35 on bottom, 30 on top.”

CLICK

MASS TESTING & LOCKDOWNS

Terminal Island temporarily shot to the top of the BOP’s outbreak list not necessarily because the disease was especially virulent there, but because it was among the first of the federal institutions to implement widespread testing of its prisoner population.

The results underscored how quickly COVID-19 can spread in the low-security prison setting where inmates constantly interact in cramped communal settings.

Terminal Island began mandatory testing on April 23, after two prisoners had already died and a few others were hospitalized on their deathbeds. The testing regime revealed hundreds of inmates were infected with COVID-19, though officials said the vast majority were asymptomatic.

“The reason the numbers so high at Terminal Island is because we are testing every single inmate,” said John Kostelnik, the western regional vice president of BOP’s union.

“We tested everyone, and that’s why the numbers are so high.”

CLICK

AS IF THE NEWS COULDN’T GET ANY WORSE FOR WOMEN

Avoiding the virus is near impossible in a prison setting.

Deidre Hunt, an inmate serving a life sentence at Lowell, said in her video message that she fears the nurses caring for the sick could spread it to others. Without testing, which has barely occurred in Lowell, it’s hard to tell who has it. At Lowell — one of the largest women’s prisons in the nation, with about 1,456 inmates — a mere 11 tests have been administered and all have come back negative.

“One case will spread and we could have a little Italy,” she said, alluding to that country’s outbreak.

Florida women’s prisons are already riddled with sexual and emotional abuse, often by male corrections officers. Now one in Homestead has become overrun with COVID-19.

COVID-19 PRISON NUMBERS: The Math Of Fear

In the federal prison system, which incarcerates more than 150,000 people, a little under 2% of inmates have been tested, and 70% of those tested have been found to be positive.

At the Cook County jail the infection rate is 7%. In the New York City jails it is 8%. At Parnall Correctional Facility in Michigan, 10% of inmates and 21% of staff have tested positive.

And at the Marion Correctional Institution in Ohio — the largest hotspot in the country — more than 2000 inmates have tested positive — about 80% of the prison’s inmates.

In many parts of America the coronavirus outbreak behind bars is far more widespread than previously believed.

CLICK