Second Mass. person dies of coronavirus, state says


March 21, 2020
Boston Globe
Laura Crimaldi and John Hilliard

New cases of COVID-19 reported on Saturday for the first time included an inmate in the state’s prison system, escalating pleas from advocates worried about the virus’s potential to spread quickly behind bars.

The patient is an inmate at the Massachusetts Treatment Center, a medium-security prison in Bridgewater reserved for sex offenders who are serving criminal sentences or have been civilly committed to the facility under the state’s sexually dangerous person law.

The sickened inmate and his roommate were quarantined from the prison’s general population on Thursday, and on Friday prison officials learned he tested positive for the virus. The man’s name wasn’t released, but the Department of Correction said he is serving a life sentence.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said staff who had contact with the man were sent home and are being tested for COVID-19.

The facility housed 571 inmates as of January with an average age of 50, state figures show. No other inmates have tested positive for the virus, according to the prison system.

Rachel Scotch, a public defender who represents clients at the treatment center, said many men civilly committed there have underlying health issues like diabetes, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“This is a largely elderly population with a lot of the risk factors in their health,” said Scotch. “It’s a small community. There’s a lot of contact.”

Elizabeth Matos, the executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, said Baker should begin releasing ill inmates who would likely die if they developed COVID-19.

“The treatment center, sadly, will not be the last case,” she said.

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