One week after first fatality, 7 federal prisoners now dead from COVID-19

Coronavirus has reached Florida's state and federal prisons. Credit: Alex Potemkin, Getty Images.

Seven federal inmates died of COVID-19 this week in hospitals near the prison facilities where they contracted the disease, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. None are in Florida.

U.S. prison authorities said the inmates, all male, ranged in age from 43 to 65 and had underlying medical problems that made them highly vulnerable to the disease.

The first of the seven died of coronavirus on Saturday, March 28.

Two inmates from the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) low-security satellite facility in Lisbon, Ohio, died Thursday after being transferred to a local hospital and placed on ventilators.

Three from the low-security FCI in Oakdale, Louisiana, died Wednesday and Thursday in nearby hospitals where they were placed on ventilators. The first inmate to die of COVID-19 also was imprisoned at FCI Oakdale and died in a local hospital after being treated on a ventilator.

The federal prison system incarcerates 175,000 inmates around the nation and employs 24,000 staff.

In addition to the deaths, the Bureau of Prisons reported Thursday that 75 inmates and 39 employees are confirmed as infected, none in Florida. At 2 p.m., the bureau had not yet posted an update.

The U.S prison system website says all its facilities are on a 14-day lockdown that started Wednesday. Inmates suspected of being sick with COVID-19 are evaluated by prison health authorities and transferred to local hospitals.

Nine of the federal prisons are in Florida, incarcerating about 10,000 people.

In Florida’s state prison system, incarcerating 96,000 people, the Florida Department of Corrections reported Friday that 20 employees (16 the day before) are infected in 14 state facilities (11 the day before) and are off duty but that no inmates were reported as being confirmed positive for the respiratory disease. It was not clear whether any inmates have been tested.

The state has 144 correctional facilities. The ones where one to four employees are confirmed infected are:

Apalachee Correctional Institution (CI), in Jackson County; Blackwater Correctional Facility, privately operated by Geo Group, in Santa Rosa County; Century CI, in Escambia County; Columbia CI, in Columbia County; Everglades CI, in Dade County; Florida Women’s Reception Center, in Marion  County; Marion CI, in Marion County; Santa Rosa CI, in Santa Rosa County; South Bay Correctional Facility, privately operated by Geo Group, in Palm Beach County; Sumter CI, in Sumter County; Zephyrhills CI, in Pasco County; DOC’s Region 2 probations office, serving northeast Florida; Region 3 probations office, serving central Florida; and Region 4 probations office serving south Florida.

Inmate advocates are appealing to both state and federal authorities to release low-risk inmates, starting with the ones who are elderly or sickly and are not yet infected.