COVID-19 in Prison

Deerfield Correctional Center

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

The latest DOC report shows an increase in the number of offenders testing positive for the novel coronavirus. There were a total of 147 incarcerated with a positive test, with nine of those in a hospital, compared to 116 and 8, respective, in the prior day’s report. Central Virginia Correctional Unit, the women’s minimum security unit in Chesterfield, showed the most increase, 23. The cumulative total of positive reports has increased from 139 to 170.  Fifty-three staff have tested positive.

The most worrisome aspect of this latest report is the occurrence of a positive test of an offender in the Deerfield complex for the first time. Deerfield Correctional Center is the facility in which DOC houses its geriatric and assisted living offender populations. It is not clear from the report whether this was an offender housed in the main facility or in the work center, which is a minimum security facility for female offenders and is a separate building from the main prison.

Although the numbers are rising, it is apparent that DOC is doing a good job in containing the virus. That is especially true in comparison with the experience in other states. The New York Times reports that, in one Ohio state prison, 1,828 inmates have tested positive. That is three-fourths of the facility’s population. At least 2,400 offenders in the Ohio prison have tested positive, comprising 20 percent of all the positive cases in the state. There have been seven inmate deaths from COVID-19. Closer to Virginia, 488 inmates in a state prison, more than half its population, in Goldsboro, N.C. have tested positive.