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A Massachusetts Prisoner Has Died Of COVID-19

A Massachusetts prisoner has died from COVID-19, according to officials with the state's Department of Correction.

He was among the 23 prisoners infected at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, which has the largest number of COVID-19 cases among the state's correctional facilities.

The DOC is not identifying the man, except to say that he was in his 50s and had underlying health conditions. The department said the man was immediately quarantined after developing symptoms but then had to be hospitalized. He tested positive at the hospital and died 10 days later.

The man, who was serving a life sentence, and had been incarcerated since 1993, and at the Massachusetts Treatment Center for two years. The center houses more than 500 men — both those that have been criminally sentenced and identified as sex offenders, and those civilly committed and deemed sexually dangerous.

"The health of incarcerated individuals, staff, visitors and volunteers is of utmost importance to the department as we continue to take unprecedented steps to prevent COVID 19 introduction and transmission," the DOC said in a statement.

As of Thursday, there were 27 confirmed cases of COVID -19 at the center, involving 23 prisoners, three DOC staff and one medical staffer.

The coronavirus is now in four prisons and six jails across the state.

All movement in one prison, MCI-Shirley, is now in lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread, according to state prison officials.

Among the confirmed cases in prisons:

  • One medical staffer and one Department of Corrections staffer at MCI-Framingham, the prison for women
  • One prisoner and one staffer at MCI-Shirley, the state's medium security prison
  • One staffer at the maximum security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center

The cases at Framingham were newly reported Thursday.

There is no uniformed tracking of confirmed coronavirus cases in jails and prisons. State public health officials only report cases by county, without breaking down whether the confirmed case is in a correctional facility.

In addition to asking DOC for updates, WBUR is regularly asking sheriffs for their case numbers in jails.

Cases so far include:

  • A health care worker at the Bristol County jail, announced Thursday. The sheriff's office says she has not been in the facility since March 25.
  • Three staffers at the Hampden County jail
  • Seven employees and two prisoners at the Middlesex County jail. An additional employee who works outside the jail has also tested positive.
  • A worker at the Norfolk County sheriff's office
  • An employee at the Plymouth County House of Correction
  • Two staffers at the Essex County jail

The state Supreme Judicial Court is considering an emergency petition that seeks to release some prisoners to help stem the spread of the disease. The court is expected to issue a ruling soon.

With additional reporting from WBUR's Beth Healy and Shannon Dooling.

This article was originally published on April 01, 2020.

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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