The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which oversees state prisons and jails and parole and probation services, has confirmed that 17 people have tested positive for COVID-19, including three inmates and four correctional officers.
Advocates have warned that prisons, jails and other detention facilities are especially vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. They are pushing for some inmates to be released early to prevent a widespread outbreak, which could strain an already overburdened healthcare system.
The possibility of an outbreak scares Kaira Hudson, whose husband has been in the Harford County Detention Center for a few months while awaiting trial on multiple charges. She said her husband has asthma, and she knows he is at greater risk in the jail than he would be at home with her and their 3 year old.
“People is really dying from this, and I’m scared,” she said. “This is our lives that we’re talking about — their lives. They’re still people, even though that they’re locked up.”
Hudson isn’t able to visit her husband because the jail, like other corrections facilities around the state, restricted visitors in response to the pandemic. But she talks to him regularly. When he complained of a headache and body aches, she wondered if he could have COVID-19.
Inside the jail, inmates have access to bar soap, but no hand sanitizer or surface disinfectants.
There’s not much Hudson can say to comfort her husband, she said.
“We just pray,” she said. “I tell him just have faith. Keep his faith. You know, as long as you got your faith, everything will be OK.”
Prisons and jails are especially vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses, and some Maryland prisons have already reported confirmed cases of COVID-19. Advocates are pushing for certain inmates to be released early to prevent a widespread outbreak. They warn that such an outbreak could strain an already overburdened healthcare system.