My little blog post on November 4th on Chester State Correctional Institute’s COVID-19 outbreak didn’t get any traction, but today, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s article might.

They report that at the State Correctional Institution Chester, 136 prisoners and 57 staff now have COVID-19, according to the Department Of Corrections. In the month ending November 10, around half of prisoners’ test results and close to 90% of staff tests there were positive.

That’s a very troubling statistic. A lot of people are starting to pay attention to positivity rates which is the percentage of people who are found to be positive among all the people who are tested. They’re saying half the inmates tested come back positive and 9 out of 10 prison staff personnel come back positive. When you couple that with the 6 inmates who have died in the last 3-weeks in Pennsylvania state prisons, it’s frightful. 

The Inquirer says, Advocates and prisoners are ringing alarm bells about outbreaks in institutions across the state — and about a potentially dire situation at county jails where local administrators are releasing little, if any, information about infections.

Omar Hooks, who is incarcerated at Chester, said he grew alarmed when the prison passed out power-of-attorney and property-release forms. Hooks and others said many who are sick are not reporting it, given the dire conditions of quarantine. “The 14 days without shower, phone, etc. deters people who are sick from coming forward,” he said.

Another prisoner there, Dave Disciullo, said he and his cellmate both developed classic COVID-19 symptoms: cough, difficulty breathing, a loss of taste and smell, body aches, and lethargy. “If you didn’t have a fever or a temperature, you didn’t get tested,” he said. It seemed as if everyone on his cell block was sick, but only those with fevers were taken to get tested and placed in quarantine. “Every two days we get out for 30 minutes to use the phone and get showers. I haven’t been outside in over 45 days.”

Has anyone seen COVID-19 numbers from George Hill prison? The Inquirer says Shubik-Richards, the Pennsylvania Prison Society director, said it’s unclear how many in county jails statewide are infected.

Doesn’t anyone know if cases detected at Chester SCI are added to the Chester City count of COVID-19 cases that are reported on the Delaware/Chester County COVID-19 tracking sight? (I don’t expect anyone to answer. I just thought I’d ask)

Prison inmates are twice as likely to die of Covid-19 than those on the outside, according to a recent study by the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, a commission under the Council on Criminal Justice. Other studies have also shown that Covid-19 deaths and infection rates are higher in US prisons than in the general population.

Just across the Delaware River from Chester SCI sits New Jersey who, in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19, released more than 2,200 prisoners. They allows for sentencing credits to be rewarded to inmates within a year of completing their sentence during a public health crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic. Another 1,167 people will be released on a rolling basis between November 4 and March 4, 2021. Inmates serving sentences for murder, aggravated sexual assault or who have been deemed a repetitive, compulsive sex offender are not eligible for early release, according to the law.

It’s amazing what a difference a river makes.