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First positive COVID-19 case confirmed in a state prison

An administrative employee at a state prison has tested positive for COVID-19, and all staff who came into contact with the person are under a 14-day quarantine, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced Thursday.

ADOC said in a statement that there are no positive COVID-19 cases “reported within the inmate population” but the statement did not indicate how many inmates may have been tested.

APR asked that question of ADOC this morning.

“The ADOC has the ability to test inmates within the facilities; however, testing will only occur after the ADPH approves a physician’s order,” the statement reads. “System-wide preventative measures in place include temperature screening of all staff prior to entering the facilities, increased sanitization of facilities with CDC-recommended cleaning supplies, and the suspension of visitation, general legal visits, and work-release and work-center programs. The Department is also minimizing the internal transfers of inmates on a case-by-case basis.

In the statement, ADOC declined to name the person or the facility at which they work, and said that “we will continue to closely monitor inmate health at all facilities.”

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“Maintaining the safety, security, and well-being of our inmate population, staff, and the public remains the ADOC’s highest priority, and the Department will continue to work closely with Governor Ivey’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force, the ADPH, and infectious disease control experts to take necessary precautions to mitigate any potential spread of the virus,” the statement reads.

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“The ADOC has been actively preparing for the spread of COVID-19 throughout Alabama, which allowed us to quickly put in place necessary preventive measures and protocols to best protect our staff and inmate population,” said ADOC commissioner Jeff Dunn in a statement. “Unfortunately, no one is immune to this virus. The physical state of our facilities and our crowded inmate populations are additional challenges we are working diligently to address as we navigate the evolving COVID-19 outbreak. The entire Department is focused on reducing the potential impact of this disease on our correctional system, while maintaining critical operational, rehabilitative, heath, and mental health services.”

“Due to the unique aspects of each of our facilities and their respective populations, the ADOC remains agile at the institution level in addressing any potential case of COVID-19. We will continue to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19, and make additional operational and preventative decisions as the situation evolves. The Department remains focused on maintaining the safety and security of the inmate population, the staff, and the public at-large above all else,” the statement reads.

Alabama’s prisons were at 169 percent capacity in December, which was before Holman prison closed to all but death row inmates, and the other prisoners were  sent to other overpopulated facilities. 

Alabama’s prisons have for decades struggled with violence, sexual assaults, drugs, suicides and corruption, as detailed in a U.S. Department of Justice report in April 2019 which found the state is likely in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment and its prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

ADOC was also slow to update a plan for dealing with COVID-19, as APR reported last week.


Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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