prison system

Cook County Jail in Chicago is one of the country's largest and it's in a fierce battle with COVID-19. The rate of infection in the jail is higher than most anywhere else in the country. More than 50o people have tested positive so far. Detainees make up nearly two-thirds of the cases and three have died from apparent complications.

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UPDATE (4/15): The Pardon and Parole board says the Governor's office mistakenly announced that 404 prisoners would be released on Thursday. The number of those released will likely be much smaller.

As chances of widespread coronavirus circulation in state prisons mounts, Gov. Kevin Stitt is sending 404 prisoners home early.

California is releasing thousands of inmates early due to the pandemic without adequate transportation, support services or housing once they get out, statewide prison advocates and reentry service providers say.

"Absolutely do not stop folks from coming home, but we need realistic resources," says London Croudy, with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, a nonprofit that advocates for inmates' rights and the formerly incarcerated. "We want to be there for these folks, but we need help!"

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Dozens of inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Washington state have staged a brief protest after several fellow prisoners tested positive for the novel coronavirus in recent days.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, the Department of Corrections Washington State said that around 6 p.m. local time more than 100 men at the prison's minimum-security unit "began engaging in a demonstration in the recreation yard."

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Coronavirus is circulating in state prisons.

So far, five Department of Corrections employees and one prisoner have tested positive for Covid-19.

The agency broke the news on the positive prisoner test and four of its employees on Tuesday. One staff member who works at Joseph Harp Correctional Center tested positive last week.

The infected prisoner is incarcerated at Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester.

Updated at 9:58 a.m. ET

Federal prisons are wrestling with the rapid spread of the coronavirus at more than two dozen facilities across the country in an outbreak that has already claimed the lives of at least seven inmates and infected almost 200 more, as well as 63 staff.

One of the hardest-hit so far is the Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale, La., located about a three-hour drive west of New Orleans. It's home to two low-security prisons and a minimum security camp, which all told house some 2,000 inmates.

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State prisons are isolating prisoners in their cells to limit opportunities for coronavirus to spread.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says the new measure, normally reserved to prevent prison violence, is aggressive but necessary. The prison agency says its staff will bring prisoners their food, medicine and other necessities to prevent groups of prisoners from gathering.

The U.S. Justice Department is offering state, municipal and tribal public safety agencies across the country money to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Oklahoma agencies could get more than $11 million to pay for agencies’ response to the coronavirus. Overtime pay for police and medical personnel, masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and medical care for prisoners are examples of allowed expenses. Agencies can even use the money to make up for past coronavirus expenses dating back to late January.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is distributing 28,000 face masks to state and private prisons after a staff member at Joseph Harp Correctional Facility in Lexington tested positive for COVID-19. The masks were provided by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Prisoners employed by Oklahoma Correctional Industries were already sewing 1,200 cloth masks a day and making hand sanitizer for use inside the state's corrections facilities.

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