A man in his 60s became the first inmate to die in the Maryland prison system as the total number of prisoners and staff to contract the coronavirus neared 100, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services announced Monday.
The inmate died Saturday at the Jessup Correctional Institution and had been hospitalized for several weeks, the department said. He had underlying health conditions and was one of 10 inmates at Jessup diagnosed with COVID-19, officials said.
Jessup has 33 confirmed cases among inmates, officers and contract employees, the most of any facility in the state. Besides the 10 inmates, 13 correctional officers and 10 contract employees have tested positive for the virus, the department said.
The second-most confirmed cases came from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostics and Classification Center in Baltimore, according to numbers from the department. So far at least 93 inmates, officers and other employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Attorneys and health officials in Baltimore and around the state have repeatedly called on Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to act swiftly to release older or non-violent inmates as the outbreak spreads. In mid-March, experts said that “jails and prisons promote spread” due to the close contact inmates have with each other in the facilities.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has been among the most vocal advocates calling for release, and on Monday again sent a letter to Hogan asking him to start reducing the prison population of low-risk and elderly offenders who may be more susceptible to contracting the virus.
Mosby and medical professionals sent a similar request to Hogan on March 23, saying the governor’s “inaction on this issue is putting the lives of Marylanders at risk."
Additionally, more than 200 medical department staff at Johns Hopkins University have made similar requests while challenging prison officials to adopt best practices for containing the spread inside prison walls. Those practices include more sanitizer and better access for prisoners to soap and water.
The Hopkins letter demands that intake screening protocols for new inmates be updated with COVID-19 specific questions and policies.
Maryland prison officials confirmed its first cases of the coronavirus on March 30, saying one inmate and two non-correctional contract employees at two different facilities.
Now, there are a total of 93 confirmed cases in the Maryland correctional system, a significant jump after the department confirmed 57 cases on Friday. The department is not releasing “numbers specific” to inmates being on quarantine or isolation’ in any state facility, according to spokesperson Mark Vernarelli.