Four prisoners die of COVID-19 during holiday week

Deaths come as vaccinations set to begin

FOUR PRISONERS at Massachusetts penal institutions succumbed to COVID-19 during the past week, bringing the total number of deaths under the jurisdiction of the Department of Correction to 15 for the duration of the pandemic.

The most recent death came Monday morning when a prisoner in his 70s died of complications from the virus at NCCI-Gardner. He had been receiving treatment at an outside hospital for several days and died there. Another prisoner in his early 70s died from coronavirus complications on New Year’s Day at an area hospital following incarceration at MCI-Concord.

A third prisoner died on December 31 after being transferred to an outside hospital from MCI-Norfolk in late November with COVID-19 complications. The fourth inmate to die was a NCCI-Gardner prisoner who was in his late 60s on December 28. This is the greatest number of prisoners to die of the virus in a week.

There are currently 90 prisoners with coronavirus at NCCI-Gardner, which has seen multiple waves of the virus. The Department of Correction said there are 60 more at Old Colony Correctional Center, 21 at MCI-Shirley Medium, 15 at MCI-Cedar Junction, 12 at the Massachusetts Treatment Center, 11 at MCI-Norfolk, six each at the Shirley Minimum and Bridgewater State Hospital, and one each at the Boston Pre-release Correctional Center, MCI-Framingham, Pondville Correctional Center, South Middlesex Correctional Center, and Northeastern Correctional Center.

There are currently 13 prisoners systemwide receiving care at area hospitals.

Meet the Author

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 DOC, which oversees nearly 6,700 inmates, has performed over 23,100 COVID-19 tests. Department-wide universal testing is under way for inmates, patients, and direct custody staff at all facilities.  Additionally, day-to-day testing of any symptomatic inmates and patients and their close contacts is also ongoing, said a DOC spokesman.

The Baker administration intends to vaccinate prisoners during Phase 1 of the vaccination process, set to end in February. The Department of Correction and COVID-19 Command Center continue to have no information on when or how over 13,000 state and county prisoners will be vaccinated.