COVID-19 prison outbreak is delaying the release of some parolees

FOX Files

BONNE TERRE, Mo. – Prisoners are waiting longer for their release because of a coronavirus outbreak. One inmate talked to about being held past his parole date. 

Twenty-two-year-old John Harden was supposed to be paroled last Friday after serving time for receiving stolen property. He said a recent test he took was inconclusive.

Within the past 24 hours, he said another test came back and it’s negative. Now he’s waiting on prison logistics.

“I’m not the only person who has missed their outdate because of these corona tests. They’re not coming back as fast and we’re supposed to be released,” he said. “I know of many in my housing unit right now. There’s been at least 10 people that’s missed their date.”

The Missouri Department of Corrections confirms an outbreak of 100 COVID positive inmates at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (ERDCC) in Bonne Terre that is delaying some paroles.

“Our top priority is public safety,” said DOC spokesperson Karen Pojmann. “In some cases, if there’s an outbreak, we have to keep them longer because it’s not in the interest of public safety to release someone who may be positive.”

She said prisons are mass testing, which means repeated tests. She said the current ERDCC outbreak has not resulted in any deaths and only a few short hospitalizations, adding, “(Delayed releases) have just been by about a few days and inmates are getting 24-7 medical care on site, which they may not have access to if they’re released, and we also know where they are.”

Harden said despite his release date of last week and his recent negative test, he still won’t get out until later this week. He said he’s got a job lined up that he doesn’t want to mess up and a sick grandfather he’d like to see.

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