Two More Cases of COVID-19 at Bridgewater Prison
Two more inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater.
Over the weekend, the state's first case of the coronavirus among the imprisoned population was confirmed in a man serving a life sentence at MTC. The facility also announced that an officer had been infected. By Monday, the total number had climbed to four.
"As of today, three inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at MTC and have been quarantined from the general population," the Massachusetts Department of Corrections said. "One officer has reported testing positive at MTC and has been instructed to stay home and follow their physician's instructions."
Wellpath is the contractor that provides medical services at the Bridgewater prison. Wellpath said it would meet with inmates who present with "symptoms consistent with a viral illness." If the inmate has symptoms and meets the criteria for testing, "the state health department would make the decision whether to have the inmate tested," as it would with any other individual, the contractor told MassLive.
The department of correction said it is working with Wellpath to address the situation.
The DOC has temporarily blocked visitation at its 16 detention facilities in the state to prevent the spread of the disease. In addition, the National Guard has set up screening tents outside the facilities and people trying to enter will be evaluated and have their temperature taken.
The news comes as advocates for the incarcerated continue their push for lowering the prison population during the pandemic. Calls have come from the ACLU of Massachusetts, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, progressive prosecutors including Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, and other entities to "decarderate."
On the SouthCoast, a group of ICE detainees at the Bristol County House of Correction recently wrote a letter to state public health officials and others expressing fear about their cramped living quarters, where they say 57 men are now in 60 bunks spaced only three feet apart.
"This is unacceptable to the health and well-being of all detainees," the men wrote.
Prisoners' Legal Services of Massachusetts and the Mass. Law Reform Institute have called upon ICE and county sheriffs to release immigrant detainees to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the jails. Groups have also called for the release of others, including inmates who pose a low risk to the community.
In a statement, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson denied that ICE detainees at his House of Correction were at risk, said there were no COVID-19 cases at the facility, and lashed out at the advocates.
“You know what’s not in the interest of public safety? Letting hundreds of people who were either convicted of a crime and serving their sentence, or are accused of committing a crime and were ordered held behind bars by a judge, walk out the front door in the middle of a public health emergency,” Hodgson wrote.