Fewer Tests Could Be the Reason Mississippi Prisons Are Seeing Low Covid Rates - The New York Times

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Officials in Mississippi are proud that their prison has the lowest infection rate in the United States, but they did not inspect prisoners without symptoms of coronavirus.


In the Southern Mississippi Correctional Facility, inmates said they used honey, bread, snacks and cakes as smuggled bleach to avoid smuggling of bleach to avoid the coronavirus, which has sickened nearly 400 men in the prison. They said that even if some people were sick, the prison refused to check them.

A prisoner who has lost his taste and sense of smell said that he was left in a dormitory mixed with dozens of other prisoners, but he was never tested.

In another prison in the state, Larry Waldon said that he washed himself with bleach instead of soap in the shower because he had seen that the guards were not wearing masks and were worried about his High blood pressure will make it difficult for him to recover from the virus. State data show that in the prison of the Eastern Mississippi Correctional Facility, only 83 of the 1,200 men in the prison were tested.

The New York Times database shows that Mississippi state officials boast that the coronavirus infection rate is the lowest in the state prison system, but the state's detection rate is also the lowest in the 10 months since the pandemic.

Nationally, the coronavirus

Infected more than 500,000 prisoners and correctional personnel, but the tests conducted in some states were very limited and could not obscure their infection statistics. Critics say the low number of people tested in Mississippi state prisons and the high incidence of positive results when they are tested indicates that the problem is more widespread than the state admits.

Cliff Johnson, director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law, said: "We think extensive testing is so important.

Last year, the state’s correctional department was asked to take more measures to protect prisoners from the coronavirus. "If you are serious about remediating infections and saving lives, knowing exactly how many people have been infected and the number of deaths in your facility is critical."

For months, Mississippi State Prison authorities have asserted that no one has died from the coronavirus in their facilities. But this month

, Officials suddenly admitted that nearly 20 prisoners died from the virus. Authorities blamed the backlog of dead bodies for the delay in the report.

Mississippi’s records show that about 9% of prisoners have been infected, which is much lower than many states. Nearly 60% of state prison inmates in Michigan have been infected, and more than 40% in South Dakota.

But Mississippi only tested 20% of prisoners. Among those tested, the infection rate was more than 40%, much higher than the positive rate in neighboring Alabama. In Alabama, two-thirds of prisoners have been tested, but 9% of them were found to be infected.

The prison system in Mississippi is

The prisoner died,

, Overcrowded and underfunded for decades.

But the Mississippi state prison authorities said that the Covid-19 crisis has been plagued them and its system has handled them well. Officials announced in a press release last year: “Mississippi’s prisons are still one of the safest Covid-19 viruses in the country.” Prison spokesperson Leo Honeycutt said the system’s official low The infection rate and death rate are a model for correctional institutions.

When complaining that the system cannot adequately test prisoners, officials said that testing is only a small part of their Covid-19 strategy. They said that inmates in Mississippi state prisons were tested whether they showed symptoms.

When asked about the specific requirements of the prisoners, including Mr. Walden and the prisoners, they said that they had lost their sense of smell and taste and refused to be named because they were worried about the reaction of prison officials. These officials said they were not aware of these cases. Mr. Honeycutt said that prison officials suspected that Mr. Walden and others used bleach to clean themselves because they did not notify the prison medical staff about the harm of this practice.

The state prison commissioner Burl Cain (Burl Cain) said in a statement to The Times that because officials were concerned about the accuracy of the tests, prison authorities conducted the fewest tests in the early stages of the pandemic. He said that in recent months, Mississippi prisons have added some tests.

Mr. Cain added that he relied on methods he believed were more effective than tests, including restricting the transfer of prisoners, suspending family visits and adopting intensive cleaning and disinfection measures. Disinfection methods include the use of hand stick UV disinfection lamps, air purifiers and disinfection sprayers, which workers use to distribute the agency’s powder puffs.

As "a non-toxic ammonia Purel type solution".

He said: “We believe that although testing may make us appear proactive, testing is not a substitute for actual, immediate and continuous action to ensure the safety of prisoners.” “We believe that the available data from the pandemic for nearly a year show that , Our decision is the right one. Mississippi’s Covid-related inmates’ hospitalizations and deaths are among the lowest in the Southeastern United States.”

Confused about the terminology of coronavirus testing? Let us help:

But the prisoners said they were worried about their lives.

In a facility at the George Green County/Region Correctional Facility in Lucedale, three-quarters of the prisoners have been infected. In other places, the case spread internally

There are no measures to prevent the coronavirus at all,

The prisoner interviewed by The Times.

The prisoners said that the lack of reliable running water prevented some prisons from washing their hands and showering. In a prison, congestion means that up to four prisoners share a cell designed for one person. In another facility, the dormitory was overcrowded, and people said that when they turned over on the bed, their arms sometimes inadvertently hit a nearby bunk.

At the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Perth, 9 inmates died of the coronavirus, but the prison only checked 195 of the 3,000 inmates. According to state data, 102 of the people tested were infected.

Paloma Wu, an attorney at the Mississippi Justice Center, a non-profit law firm, said that negligence exacerbated an already severe situation.

She said: "They cannot ensure the safety of people in prison."

The service provided by the system to prisoners was highlighted last year

Health care provider, the company accused the state of refusing to spend enough money on prisoner care.

In the interview, prisoners who avoided getting sick said that they were worried that they would get sick in a crowded, unsanitary environment, or even worse.

"I don't want to die here. That's why I have to do my best to provide information to someone in this prison system and provide us with better information." Mr. Walden said he was convicted of theft. Ten years in prison. "I want to die in the prison system all the time."

About three months ago, as the coronavirus ravaged the system, Mr. Walden moved between prisons in Mississippi. This policy also helped in other states.

. He said the thought of death caused depression and anxiety.

He said: "This worries you." "It makes you think about unexpected situations. It makes you wonder: "Do they do anything to the coronavirus?" Are they going to test us? Will they help us? '"

The report was contributed by

Izzy Cologne


Brendon Del

, Danya Issawi,

Ann Singer Klein

Derek M. Norman

Libby Celine

Timothy Williams


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