Prison barbwire fencing. Credit: Alex Potemkin, Getty Images.
Active cases of COVID-19 have dropped to zero across all of the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) 37 facilities, including those for youth. Three active cases among staff remain, however, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Those individuals are quarantining at home. DOC tracks cases of COVID-19 among staff and people incarcerated within its facilities via an online dashboard, which showed the drop in active cases.
According to the DOC’s COVID dashboard, over 96% of incarcerated people did not refuse the vaccine. It’s a statistic reflected in the numbers for some of the state’s largest facilities. Over 1,200 people in the Oshkosh Correctional Institution have received their second vaccine dose. Some 1,494 people were incarcerated at Oshkosh Correctional as of June 18.
At the Dodge Correctional Institution, a facility that was built for 1,165 people but holds over 1,400, some 542 incarcerated people have received their second vaccine. Another 145 received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine before it was discontinued. At the Waupun prison, around 500 of the facility’s 939 incarcerated people have received a vaccine.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit Wisconsin’s incarcerated population particularly hard. Nearly 11,000 of the 19,000 people in the DOC’s custody tested positive for COVID, with 32 having died of COVID-related issues. As the pandemic continued, incarcerated people increasingly spoke out about what they were experiencing. Not only was anxiety high over potentially catching the virus, but incarcerated people increasingly despaired over lack of recreational and educational opportunities and a freeze in transfers.
In-person visits resumed on June 6. “We are very happy to again offer in-person visits,” said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr. “Soon after the pandemic began, we transitioned to video visits as a way to protect our staff, persons in our care and Wisconsin communities. Now, with COVID-19 infection numbers down and vaccination rates up, those in our care and their loved ones can again enjoy each other’s company face-to-face.”
Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake pressed the importance of vaccination. “Vaccination is an incredible tool against COVID-19,” she said after in-person visits resumed. “The level of vaccination rates we are seeing in DOC institutions and Wisconsin communities allows in-person visitation to resume safely in these facilities, with precautions in place.”
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