MCI-Norfolk prisoner in his 80s dies of COVID-19

Inmate had previously tested negative early last month

A PRISONER in his 80s at the state prison in Norfolk died of COVID-19 on Friday, the ninth inmate to die in the custody of the Department of Correction since the pandemic began.

Prison staff were called in a medical emergency at around 8:15 p.m. on Friday night, and they immediately began life-saving efforts on the prisoner upon finding him. The inmate was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead an hour later.

The inmate had previously tested negative on two separate COVID-19 tests, most recently on November 4, and had multiple COVID-19 screenings over the past three weeks as a part of the ongoing testing program at the state prison.

The DOC learned on Saturday that a COVID-19 test conducted at the hospital came back with a positive result.

The Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office has been notified, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of the man’s death, according to the DOC.  His death is under investigation.

MCI-Norfolk’s inmate population is among the oldest of the state’s 16 prison facilities. The oldest prisoner is 91.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

The last prisoner death from coronavirus occurred in May, according to the Department of Corrections’ statistics reported to the Supreme Judicial Court. While the number of prisoners who died of COVID-19 in DOC custody is nine, that number does not include two prisoners who were released on medical parole just hours before their deaths from COVID-19, according to documents shown to CommonWealth last week.

MCI-Norfolk saw a spike of 172 prisoners with COVID-19 in November. Other facilities, like MCI-Concord, have seen recent surges of cases, with 163 prisoners testing positive as of December 4, and an additional 47 correctional officers at the same facility.