Hampden County sheriff orders jail lockdown after 8 inmates test positive for COVID-19

  • COVID-19 testing at the Hampden County Correctional Center. HAMPDEN COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT

  • COVID-19 testing at the Hampden County Correctional Center. HAMPDEN COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT

Staff Writer
Published: 5/26/2020 4:16:34 PM

LUDLOW — The Hampden County Correctional Center has been placed on a “precautionary lockdown” by the sheriff, after eight inmates contracted COVID-19, according to the jail Tuesday.

Hampden County Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi ordered the facility at 736 Randall Road, also referred to as the Main Institution, on lockdown, pending COVID-19 testing of the jail’s entire population. Four staff members also have tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus, while 12 staff members previously tested positive and have since been cleared to return to work.

“Our institution is a reflection of the community we serve and we have been preparing for the inevitable positive case within our population. Our thorough medical plan to mitigate the potential for spreading the virus within the population has been ready and is now enacted,” Cocchi said in a statement released by the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department. “The institutional focus is now on containment. I am ordering a temporary lockdown of the facility until we can test every single person in our custody.”

No sentenced inmates tested positive for COVID-19 at the jail prior to the current eight, according to the statement. One person who previously arrived for temporary detention from a police department arrived positive for COVID-19 but was kept in isolation for the entirety of their six-hour stay.

Another person who was committed to the jail for a substance use disorder, under the state’s Section 35 law, also had arrived positive for COVID-19. In a phone interview last Wednesday, Cocchi said this person was in the hospital for detoxification. 

“That individual is still getting his addiction-related programming and treatment in a setting that limits the chances of spreading COVID-19 to the other men in the program,” read the statement released Tuesday.

Cocchi also said last week that the state’s weekly report on COVID-19 in Massachusetts jails and prisons had misreported an extra COVID-19 case at his jail.

The sheriff’s department reported that it took in 52 detainees arrested by police departments across Hampden County over Memorial Day weekend. A majority of those people were placed on medical watch based on COVID-19 symptoms revealed by the facility’s screening process.

As part of the lockdown and testing, the sheriff’s department has also stopped taking in detainees from the region’s police departments as well as Section 35 clients from the courts “until further notice,” the statement said.

“The sheriff’s office has devised a process to satisfy the needs of the courts, the detainees, Section 35 civil commitment clients, and the police departments all while getting our facility back to a place where we can resume normal operations,” the statement said.

The sheriff’s department is using testing as a way to attempt to mitigate asymptomatic transmission of the virus. 

“If there is a positive case inside the facility and that individual is scheduled for release, we are working with the local public health departments regarding the impending return of that person to the community,” the statement reads.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com. 


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