Active infections in Iowa prisons drop to 143, with 18 deaths of inmates and staff

By: - February 1, 2021 3:44 pm

An attack that left two dead at the Anamosa State Penitentiary has heightened debate over prison funding. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Department of Corrections)

A total of 143 prison workers and inmates are currently infected with coronavirus, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections.

That number represents a significant decrease from Jan. 8, when the agency reported 150 inmates and 43 staffers as being positive for the virus.

The department’s latest data also shows that in addition to the two DOC staffers who died late last year after contracting the virus, 16 inmates have died of the virus during the pandemic.

By far, the biggest current outbreak in the prison system is within the Newton Correctional Facility, where 86 inmates are positive for the virus, and 426 others have tested positive and recovered. The Newton facility houses 1,050 offenders.

Only one Newton staffer was reported to be positive for the virus as of Monday, while 42 of the 265 staffers have tested positive in the past year and have recovered.

The facility that has reported the greatest number of inmate infections over the past year is the Anamosa State Penitentiary, where 868 inmates have contracted the virus. Although there are four other DOC prisons or correctional facilities with roughly the same number, or a greater number, of inmates, the number of infections reported at Anamosa is far higher than those other facilities. Also, the number of virus-related inmate deaths at Anamosa — six — is higher than that of any other DOC installation.

At last month’s Iowa Board of Corrections meeting, DOC Director Beth Skinner said the agency was “starting to see some stabilization in our COVID numbers, not only for the individuals incarcerated but our staff, as well.”

Skinner also indicated that after surveying the DOC’s prison staff, it was determined that half of the workers were refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She said she hoped to see the staff’s acceptance of the vaccine grow as the department stepped up its efforts to educate the workforce.

The department’s breakdown of the virus shows the following tests, infections and deaths in each prison and correctional facility. (Note that the number of tests reflects multiple tests for individual staffers.)

Anamosa State Penitentiary (950 inmates, 321 staff):

  • Number of tests for inmates: 2,203
  • Inmates currently positive: 0
  • Inmates recovered: 868
  • Staff currently positive: 0
  • Staff recovered: 154
  • Inmate deaths: 6

Clarinda Correctional Facility (1,000 inmates, 218 staff):

  • Number of tests for inmates: 4,525
  • Inmates currently positive: 1
  • Inmates recovered: 598
  • Staff currently positive: 1
  • Staff recovered: 60
  • Inmate deaths: 1
  • Staff deaths: 1

Fort Dodge Correctional Facility (1,400 inmates, 262 staff):

  • Number of tests for inmates: 6,170
  • Inmates currently positive: 2
  • Inmates recovered: 555
  • Staff currently positive: 1
  • Staff recovered: 89
  • Inmate deaths: 4

Iowa Correctional Institution for Women (888 inmates, 238 staff):

  • Number of tests for inmates: 2,103
  • Inmates currently positive: 1
  • Inmates recovered: 20
  • Staff currently positive: 0
  • Staff recovered: 37
  • Inmate deaths: 0
  • Staff deaths: 1

Iowa Medical and Classification Center (939 inmates, 494 staff):

  • Number of tests for inmates: 10,718
  • Inmates currently positive: 25
  • Inmates recovered: 473
  • Staff currently positive: 6
  • Staff recovered: 102
  • Inmate deaths: 3

Iowa State Penitentiary (843 inmates, 435 staff):

  • Number of tests for inmates: 2,127
  • Inmates currently positive: 0
  • Inmates recovered: 229
  • Staff currently positive: 1
  • Staff recovered: 93
  • Inmate deaths: 2

Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility (862 inmates, 262 staff):

  • Number of tests for inmates: 4,496
  • Inmates currently positive: 12
  • Inmates recovered: 767
  • Staff currently positive: 6
  • Staff recovered: 54
  • Inmate deaths: 0

Newton Correctional Facility (1,050 inmates, 265 staff):

  • Number of tests for inmates: 4,532
  • Inmates currently positive: 86
  • Inmates recovered: 426
  • Staff currently positive: 1
  • Staff recovered: 42
  • Inmate deaths: 0

North Central Correctional Facility (500 inmates, 92 staff):

  • Number of tests for inmates: 919
  • Inmates currently positive: 0
  • Inmates recovered: 389
  • Staff currently positive: 0
  • Staff recovered: 34
  • Inmate deaths: 0

 Total, Iowa Department of Corrections:

  • Number of tests for inmates: 38,262
  • Inmates currently positive: 127
  • Inmates recovered: 4,325
  • Staff currently positive: 16
  • Staff recovered: 665
  • Inmate deaths: 16
  • Staff deaths: 2

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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