NEW ORLEANS (WDSU) – A staff member at Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, has died after being infected with COVID-19, according to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
As of Tuesday morning, the Department of Corrections’ online coronavirus dashboard reported the first coronavirus-related death of a staff member or inmate between eight state prisons — a staff member at Angola.
“We are saddened by the death of this individual. He was a valued employee who will truly be missed,” DOC spokesman Ken Pastorick said. “We send out our deepest sympathies to his family.”
The DOC is not releasing the job title or other information about the deceased employee, based on privacy concerns, he added.
The dashboard shows a total of 16 staff members and 11 inmates at Angola have tested positive for the coronavirus. Six Angola prisoners are considered in the “step-down” phase of their potential recovery.
Angola is located in West Feliciana Parish.
A total of 60 state inmates across eight state prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus. A total of 52 staff members who work at those prisons have tested positive.
Read more about DOC’s coronavirus mitigation efforts here.
Groups file lawsuit over DOC’s coronavirus plan
Meanwhile, two nonprofits have filed a lawsuit against DOC in effort to stop a plan to move COVID-19-positive pretrial inmates from around the state’s local jails to housing unit at Angola that was shuttered in 2018.
The DOC’s plan, which was made with the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, calls for the transfer of pretrial inmates from local jails unequipped to treat them to Angola’s Camp J. Angola staff previously used Camp J to segregate inmates in conditions some through of as solitary confinement. It closed in 2018 because of poor conditions, which a news release issued by the nonprofits who filed the suit described as “notoriously inhumane.”
Administrators of local jails that are equipped to treat inmates infected with the coronavirus are encouraged to treat them at the local facilities, Ken Pastorick, spokesman for the DOC said last month. The plan is intended for sheriff who don’t have the resources to isolate and treat infected inmates. Angola inmates who test positive will also be housed at Camp J.
DOC Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc, speaking Tuesday at a press conference alongside Gov. John Bel Edwards, declined to comment on the ongoing litigation specifically, but said the arrangment provided a “safe haven” for the sick inmates.
The Promise of Justice Initiative and Southern Poverty Law Center, whose lawyers filed the suit Tuesday the Middle District of Louisiana, note in a news release a federal court has found certain aspects of health care at Angola to be unconstitutional. It also notes the state’s prison and jail population is disproportionately African American, “as are people in Louisiana who die of COVID-19.”
Mercedes Montagnes, executive director of The Promise of Justice Initiative, estimated about 40 pretrial inmates have been transferred to Camp J, where she said Angola’s imprisoned coronavirus patients are also being housed.
DOC’s coronavirus dashboard does not include data on the number of pretrial inmates who are being housed at Angola or Allen Correctional Center, Pastorick said.
“Moving sick people from around the state to a facility with no ventilators, no doctors, and a long way from adequate hospitals is wrong and will result in a public health disaster,” Montagnes said.
By: WDSU Digital Team