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5 Mass. DOC employees, 10 inmates test positive for COVID-19

As COVID-19 threatens to spread behind bars, defense attorneys are filing motions for some inmates’ release

By Melissa Hanson

BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — There are now 10 inmates at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater that have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, officials said.

Those 10 cases have been identified as of Friday afternoon. A medical provider staff member at the treatment center has also tested positive, according to the state Department of Correction.

Additionally, five Department of Correction staff members have coronavirus. Three work at the treatment center, one works at MCI-Shirley and one works at the central office, said Jason Dobson, a spokesman for the department.

Cases at the treatment center have increased slightly since earlier this week. As of Tuesday, eight inmates at the treatment center had contracted the virus. One DOC staffer and a medical provider who works at the facility had also tested positive as of Tuesday. The case at MCI-Shirley was also identified earlier this week.

The Massachusetts Treatment Center is a medium-security facility that houses criminally sentenced men identified as sex offenders and those who have been civilly committed as sexually dangerous people.

A defense attorney for an inmate at the Massachusetts Treatment Center has been fighting for his client’s release, arguing that the man has been held unlawfully for a probation violation and noting that that man has several illnesses that make him at risk of complications from coronavirus.

As COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, threatens to spread behind bars, defense attorneys are filing motions for release in some cases. District attorneys say they are considering early release for some non-violent offenders, including people 60 and older or people who have illnesses that put them at a higher risk of complications of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers on Tuesday asked the state Supreme Judicial Court to limit outbreaks of COVID-19 behind bars by reducing the number of people in jails, prisons, and houses of correction, filing an emergency petition. The litigation has been sent to the full SJC.

As of Friday afternoon, 35 Massachusetts residents have died from complications of COVID-19. At least 3,240 residents have tested positive for the virus, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Across the world, at least 618,043 people have tested positive for coronavirus. There have been 28,823 deaths and at least 135,736 people who have recovered, according to a real-time map produced by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.


©2020, Springfield, Mass.