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29 People In Mass. Prisons And Jails Diagnosed With COVID-19

A total of 29 people inside Massachusetts jails and prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The hardest hit facility is the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, which prison officials said has 17 confirmed cases among prisoners — up from 10 on Friday. Four others at the facility — three corrections officers and one medical provider staff member — have also tested positive. Department of Corrections officials earlier said the prisoners were being quarantined.

The Essex County sheriff's office also said Monday a worker there has tested positive.

Here's a listing of other positive cases reported earlier, according to prison and jail officials:

  • Three staffers at the Hampden County jail tested positive. Sheriff Nick Cocchi said on April 1 that anyone who had contact with the staffers, who were not correctional officers, have been notified and place under "COVID-19 medical protocols."
  • Two prisoners at the Middlesex County jail have tested positive. The Middlesex County Sheriff's Department said both are being held in the jail's health services unit.
  • A worker at the Norfolk County sheriff's office tested positive. A statement from Sheriff Jerry McDermott said the worker was asymptomatic on the last day they worked on March 20. The statement said the jail has increased sanitizing and cleaning and is following state and federal health protocols.
  • An employee at the Plymouth County House of Correction. The case was announced on March 24. The employee was tested March 20 and has been quarantined.
  • Two staff members at MCI-Shirley, as of March 27. It is a minimum- and medium-security prison for men.

The DOC said the National Guard has put up screening tests to take the temperatures of people entering all state prisons. Corrections officials say they are following state and federal health guidelines to minimize the risk of transmission.

In a statement, spokesman Jason Dobson said DOC is following state health officials' recommendations, including instructing staff in contact with quarantined inmates to wear protective gear.

The first prisoner at the Mass. Treatment Center was diagnosed with the coronavirus on Friday, March 20. There are more than 500 men incarcerated at the MTC, which holds those deemed sexually dangerous.

Prisoners rights advocates are calling on the state to reduce the number of people incarcerated. A group of state lawmakers has filed emergency legislation asking that the state release non-violent offenders and those most at risk for contracting the disease.

With reporting from WBUR's Beth Healy

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Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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