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COVID-19 continues to run rampant in prisons across the tri-county area

More than 1,300 state and federal inmates and prison staff members in the tri-county area have tested positive for COVID-19, with six of those prisoners succumbing to the deadly virus.

The majority of those cases – 779 – have been reported at the Lowell Correctional Institution, located at 11120 N.W. Gainesville Rd. in Ocala. Of those, 744 are inmates in the women’s prison and 35 are employees, according to a report released Friday by the Florida Department of Corrections.

That overall number marks an increase of 128 cases since Wednesday when the prison was reporting positive tests among 629 inmates and 22 staff members, FDC statistics show.

The prison also is reporting 586 negative results among inmates and another 706 awaiting test results. A total of 1,222 prisoners are being kept in medical quarantine and 11 are in security quarantine, the report says.

On Friday, the federal prison in Coleman reported 410 cases among 329 inmates and 81 staff members. Those numbers show an increase of 38 cases since July 25, when the prison was reporting 372 cases among 297 inmates and 75 staff members.

One inmate at the facility has died from the virus, while nine prisoners and four staff members have recovered from the illness. The cases at the facility are broken down as:

  • Low security wing: 174 inmates and 18 staff member test positive. Three inmates and two staff members recovered;
  • Medium security wing: 128 inmates and 28 staff members test positive. One dead and four inmates recovered; and0
  • Maximum security wings: 27 inmates and 35 staff members test positive. Two inmates and two staff members recovered.

The Sumter Correctional Institution, located at 9544 County Road 476B in Bushnell, also is battling COVID-19, with 128 cases among 103 inmates and 25 staff members. Sixty-seven inmates have tested negative and four are being kept in security quarantine.

The Marion Correctional Institution, located at 3269 NW 105th St. in Ocala, has nine cases among four inmates and five staff members. Six inmates have tested negative and three are awaiting test results. Three inmates are in medical isolation, 119 are in medical quarantine and four are in security quarantine.

Inmates at the state prisons are placed in medical isolation when they are suspected or presenting symptoms of an infectious illness. They are placed in medical quarantine when they may have had close contact with someone who has tested positive or is showing symptoms of an illness. And those in security quarantine are separated because they recently transferred into a correctional facility, according to FDOC.

Overall, the Federal Bureau of Prisons houses close to 143,000 inmates in facilities across the United States and has a staff of about 36,000. As of Friday, 3,035 prisoners and 500 staff members had confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide.

All told, 7,429 federal inmates and 683 staff members have recovered from the Coronavirus. But 103 inmates and one staff member have died as a result of the illness.

The Coleman prison complex sits on about 1,600 acres and as of 2010 was the largest correctional facility operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The inmates at the facility, on average, serve sentences of about 10 years.

Over the years, the prison has housed a variety of high-profile inmates. Convicted pedophile Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University team doctor, was moved there in August 2018 after allegedly being attacked in an Arizona prison. Somalia pirate Gabul Abdullah Ali and al-Qaeda sympathizer Amine El Khalifi also were believed to have served time there. And the late James “Whitey” Bulger, the famed Boston crime boss, was moved there in late 2014.

This past April, former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was released from the facility after completing less than half of her 60-month sentence for corruption and fraud charges. The 73-year Brown is serving the remainder of her sentence under home confinement. She suffers from high blood pressure, sleep apnea, low estrogen and acid reflux and was released because of concerns surrounding the Coronavirus.

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