Two inmates at the Dodge Correctional Institution and an inmate at the Green Bay Correctional Institution have died from COVID-19, according to local medical examiners. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections does not disclose the number of deaths in the system due to privacy laws.
In a statement on Oct. 7, the DOC explained that HIPAA laws prevent them from sharing information about inmates’ medical diagnoses or causes of death. Local medical examiners and coroners disclose information regarding deaths.
A 63-year-old man with preexisting health conditions died from COVID-19 on Sept. 12, Dodge County Medical Examiner PJ Schoebel said Oct. 7. Schoebel said an autopsy confirmed that COVID-19 was the primary cause of death. Another 62-year-old man who tested positive for COVID-19 died from lung cancer just three days later on Sept. 15. Schobel said that the virus was a contributing factor in his death.
The third, a prisoner from the Green Bay Correctional Institution, died Oct. 7 after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Dane County Medical Examiner. The 54-year-old man was transported to the UW Hospital for treatment. The cause of death has not yet been determined.
While the Wisconsin DOC does not include deaths on their COVID-19 dashboard, other states, including Michigan and Minnesota, report the number of COVID-19-related deaths without releasing names.
DOC’s dashboard shows large numbers of active positive cases at Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution and Oshkosh Correctional Institution. As of Oct. 9, Kettle Moraine Correctional had 406 active positive cases and Oshkosh Correctional had 353.
The DOC reports 2,274 total positive tests and 43,268 total negative tests in all of their facilities as of Oct. 9.
Confirmed cases among employees are shared on a separate dashboard. As of Oct. 9, there were 540 total staff positive cases, including 71 at Kettle Moraine Correctional and 39 at Oshkosh Correctional. All staff information is self-reported.
In June, the ACLU and Prison Policy Initiative gave Wisconsin an F+ for its response to COVID-19 in state jails and prisons. The report gave Wisconsin points for committing to test staff and inmates, distributing masks and providing daily reporting, but the state lost points for not providing a detailed breakdown of data.
According to Fox 11 News, the mother of an inmate at Dodge Correctional Institution received a letter from her son’s cellmate saying that COVID-19 test results of cellmates are not being confirmed and inmates are not having their temperatures taken.
The DOC said that inmates are generally informed if they’ve tested positive and that all inmates are treated as if they have been exposed to the virus at facilities with outbreaks. The DOC said that inmates are transported to hospitals if they require more care than institutions can provide.
According to DOC Secretary Kevin A. Carr, the department has taken precautions to minimize the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons. Measures include screening protocols for employees, increased sanitation in facilities, implementing social distancing whenever possible and suspending non-essential visits.
In his April statement, Carr announced that 1,148 non-violent misdemeanants would be released from supervision holds. Other prisoners that qualified for Certain Earned Release — non-violent persons with less than one year to serve — would also be released for community supervision.
As of August, Wisconsin adult correctional facilities held about 20 percent more inmates than they were designed to hold, according to WPR.
state news writer