One inmate and two non-correctional contract employees have tested positive for COVID-19, marking the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Maryland state jails and prisons, according to multiple reports.
The individuals were located at two different facilities–one in Baltimore and one in Jessup.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement Monday the first confirmed cases in Maryland prisons underscore “that now, more than ever, the Governor must immediately formulate and implement a comprehensive plan for safely handling prisons and COVID-19.”
Last Friday, Mike Ricci, spokesperson for Gov. Larry Hogan, tweeted that the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said “total social distancing is impossible in a prison setting.”
However, the Hogan administration has taken actions to limit the spread of COVID-19, including suspending visitation at all Maryland state prisons, as well as eliminating group activities and “modifying movement,” Ricci said.
DPSCS “has instituted enhanced hygiene and sanitation practices” consistent with recommendations from the Maryland Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The department has also provided inmates additional soap at no cost, Ricci said.
Ricci said employees must use the front entrance at DPSCS facilities, at which point they must undergo temperature checks, and answer questionnaires during shift change.
1. Getting good questions about prisons and #COVIDー19 response. The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has been collaborating with multiple agencies, including the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).
— Mike Ricci (@riccimike) March 27, 2020
Nearly two weeks ago, a coalition of advocacy groups, public defenders and concerned individuals called on on Gov. Larry Hogan to take steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus in Maryland’s jails and prisons.
Among the steps proposed in the letter were releasing people from prisons who are at a high-risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus and people who are currently in pre-trial detention or serving sentences that will expire soon.
The letter also called on Hogan to ensure that people in prisons have access to basic necessities such as soap, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.
Previously, Mosby also called on Hogan to free all inmates older than 60 years old in state prisons, anyone who has been approved for parole, and prisoners scheduled to complete their sentence within the next year, The Sun reported.