A 67-year-old man in Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) custody died from COVID-19 complications on Sunday, marking the third incarcerated person to die from COVID since November 18 and the tenth this year. The most recent numbers showed population positivity percentage within the Connecticut DOC as higher than the population positivity percentage in nursing homes and in the state overall.
Governor Ned Lamont has indicated that incarcerated people will be in “phase 1b” of COVID vaccination rollout but has not clarified whether they and others in congregate living situations will be included in the first months of that phase, nor whether he will include the approximately 234 incarcerated people over the age of 65 and medically vulnerable incarcerated people in “phase 1a,” which is already slated to include elderly and medically vulnerable people in nursing homes. While a settlement agreement in a federal lawsuit requires the DOC to prioritize medically vulnerable people for release, the state has not issued a formal plan for releases and data from earlier Hearst Connecticut reports showed reductions in prison population were largely due to fewer intakes.
The following is a statement from Melvin Medina, ACLU of Connecticut public policy and advocacy director:
“Prisons and jails are unhealthy places for people to be during normal times, and they have proven especially dangerous during this pandemic. An outbreak in the DOC threatens the wellbeing of people in the DOC, 70 percent of whom are Black or Latino, and of communities outside as prison staff move in and out. The Governor and DOC have had a responsibility to get incarcerated people out of harm’s way from COVID-19, and thus far they have failed. By including incarcerated people in the same vaccine phase as others in congregate living settings, the Governor has already recognized the threat COVID poses to people in the DOC. He must step up to save lives now, before it is too late, by de-densifying prisons with a clear and transparent release plan for December and January, including elderly and medically vulnerable incarcerated people in vaccine phase 1a just as he has rightfully prioritized other elderly and medically vulnerable people by including nursing home residents in 1a, and confirming that incarcerated people will be included in the first month of phase 1b.”
The ACLU of Connecticut has twice sued Governor Lamont and the Connecticut Department of Correction in an effort to protect incarcerated people from COVID-19. Under a federal settlement in one of those cases, in effect from July 20 until December 31, the Department of Correction is legally required to adhere to specific mask, testing, hygiene, sanitation, and health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s prisons and jails. In an October 28 letter, the ACLU of Connecticut announced “systemic patterns of non-compliance by the Department of Correction” with the majority of those measures.