DEER LODGE — The first COVID-19 cases have been reported at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.
COVID-19 testing conducted at MSP late last week identified eight cases of the virus in the facility’s inmate population. According to a news release, staff cases totaled 23 as of Thursday.
“We hoped we would be fortunate enough to avoid any inmate cases by implementing stringent precautions to protect against COVID-19 at all our secure facilities in the early stages of this pandemic,” DOC Director Reginald D. Michael said Thursday.
“However, we also prepared for this possibility. We have educated our workforce and inmate population to make sound choices related to the virus to help prevent spread within the facility, and we have knowledgeable health care staff to provide the best medical services possible to the people in our care.”
Prison officials that the department’s Clinical Services staff is ensuring proper quarantine and isolation of infected inmates, and conducting contact tracing within the facility. The department’s health care staff also has been talking with inmates to answer questions, monitor offender health status, and provide medical care.
Safety measures implemented at DOC secure facilities early in the pandemic, and which remain in effect, include:
- Education of staff and inmates about how to recognize the symptoms of COVID-19, and how to prevent the spread of the virus though good personal hygiene, social distancing, use of personal protective equipment.
- Increased cleaning and disinfection efforts.
- Provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for inmates and staff members to wear — mask use is mandatory for DOC employees inside secure facilities. The DOC’s Montana Correctional Enterprises produces an assortment of PPE including cloth face masks, medical masks, face shields, N95 masks, shoe covers and more.
- Daily screening and temperature checks of staff members as they arrive at work.
- Suspended in-person visitation.
- Sentinel testing for COVID-19.
New arrivals at the Montana State Prison are quarantined for 14 days and offered COVID-19 testing at intake. Prison officials note that testing is conducted on a weekly basis, and will continue for the foreseeable future, to identify cases and help direct resources most effectively.
“We know this is a difficult time for inmates in our facilities, along with their family and friends,” Connie Winner, administrator of the DOC’s Clinical Services Division, said. “We want to assure everyone that the medical needs of our offender population will be met with professionalism and compassion.”
The Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge houses about 1,500 felony offenders and employs a staff of close to 700. Click here for additional information about COVID-19 cases from the Montana Department of Corrections.