A second inmate has died of COVID-19 at Sterling Correctional Facility in northeastern Colorado, and the number of active cases among inmates there has swelled by more than a third to 327, the Colorado Department of Corrections reported Monday.
The update was posted online as part of a new state prisons database showing the results of coronavirus testing at prisons across the state. The inmate who died in Sterling was a 61-year-old man, prisons spokeswoman Annie Skinner said, declining to identify him.
Crowley County Correctional Facility in Ordway east of Pueblo, has 37 positive cases, the database shows. The Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, which determines where newly sentenced inmates will be placed, has one active case.
As of Friday, 40 state prison employees across the state are on leave for reasons related to COVID-19, including possible exposure. Of those, 25 have tested positive for the illness, and 14 are considered active cases, the data show.
Sterling Correctional Facility, which holds about 2,500 inmates, became the state’s largest outbreak in early May when mass testing revealed 241 inmates and 11 staff members had fallen ill from the virus. An 86-year-old inmate died May 1, after being transferred to an area hospital. He was the first Colorado inmate to die of the disease.
New data show nearly a quarter of the 1,415 Sterling inmates tested thus far were positive for the virus. In addition to the 327 inmates battling illness, two others have recovered, prison officials said.
Since April 14, inmates at the prison have been kept in their cells except to shower and use restrooms, the department reported. All meals and medications are delivered to inmates in their living units.
Employees and vendors are screened before entering the facility, including having their temperatures taken. Those feeling ill or demonstrating symptoms are placed on administrative leave and are not allowed inside the facilities or offices, Skinner said. All staff and inmates have been provided masks and are required to wear face coverings inside the facility. The Sterling prison is being cleaned multiple times daily.
Among the Sterling prison inmates suffering from COVID-19 is convicted double-murderer Jacob Ind of Woodland Park, said his wife, Denise Ind. Skinner said she couldn't confirm the information, citing Ind's medical privacy rights.
“(Ind) started getting a sore throat the other day and looks a little pale, but nothing extreme,” his wife said. “I’m praying it stays that way.”
Denise Ind said her husband is in a unit with 2 working phones shared by 20 inmates. “They only get out for them for an hour per day, so only a third of those men can contact home by phone,” she said.
Ind, 42, was 15 when he participated in the 1992 killings of Pamela and Kermode Jordan, his mother and stepfather, claiming years of abuse. Ind, initially sentenced to two life terms, was resentenced in January 2019 to 60 years in prison, making him eligible for parole after receiving credit for time served.
Ind has a parole hearing scheduled for July.
News of a second death at the Sterling prison comes three days after a coalition of inmate advocates including ACLU of Colorado sent a letter to Gov. Jared Polis complaining that precautions haven't gone far enough to control the spread of coronavirus in state prisons.
“Colorado just abolished the death penalty. We cannot keep elderly and medically vulnerable Coloradans incarcerated in prisons that are likely to become their death traps,” the letter said. Among more than a dozen signatories were the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, the state Alternate Defense Counsel, the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Physician’s for Criminal Justice Reform and the Center for Health Progress.