September 16, 2020
This week we learned of two serious outbreaks of Covid-19 at two Virginia prisons. The most serious outbreak was at Deerfield Correctional Center in Capron, VA. According to news reports, 407 inmates have been infected with the coronavirus, 22 have been hospitalized and 2 people have died. At Fluvanna Women's Correctional Center in Troy, VA, 41 inmates have been infected with no deaths reported. These reports indicate how serious the threat of Covid-19 is to prison populations in Virginia, Maryland, and in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. According to a report by the Prison Policy Initiative, only one half of all the state prison systems require staff to wear masks and only one-third of all states require inmates to wear masks. Virginia is one of the states that requires both inmates and staff to wear masks. However, Maryland does not require either staff or inmates to wear masks.
Even with the wearing of masks, Virginia has experienced serious outbreaks of the coronavirus in two major prisons. Virginia has been very slow to release inmates who are over 60, who have serious underlying medical conditions, or are within a year of release. If more people could be released even under house arrest monitored electronically, prison officials would have more flexibility to separate prisoners and enforce social distancing. In too many prisons, social distancing is inconsistent at best.
IAHR is monitoring both outbreaks through correspondence with inmates. As more becomes known, we will keep you posted.