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'I’m Very Concerned.': DOC Commissioner Warns COVID Cases Likely To Rise in Mississippi Prison

Prison door
The Vermont Department of Corrections announced in a press release Sunday, Aug. 2 that 85 Vermonters incarcerated at a private prison in Mississippi had tested positive for COVID-19. The prison is still awaiting roughly 80 results.


At least85 Vermont inmates housed in a private prison in Mississippi have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement released by the Department of Corrections on Sunday. But many more could be infected, as the facility awaits as many as half of its expected test results.


Jim Baker, interim commissioner of the Department of Corrections told Vermont Edition Aug. 3 that he is “very concerned that those numbers are going to rise.” Baker said as many as 86 inmates could still be waiting for their results, but wasn't certain. 


For additional reporting on this topic and updates to this story, head here.


The current numbers:

  •  219: the number of Vermont inmates at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, a private for-profit prison in Mississippi which is operated by CoreCivic.
  • 6: the number of inmates previously housed at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility whotested positive for COVID-19 upon returning to Vermont on Tuesday, July 28.
  • 85: the number of Vermont inmates incarcerated at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility who had tested positive for COVID-19, as of Aug. 3. Following the six positive results among returnees to Vermont, most of the Vermont inmates in Mississippi were tested, though some refused testing.
  • 32: The number of Vermont inmates at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility who had tested negative for COVID-19, as of Aug. 3.
  • 40%: the percentageof all Vermont inmates incarcerated in the Mississippi facility who had tested positive for COVID-19. That percentage is likely to increase as more test results come back this week.

Although Baker said the 219 Vermont inmates are housed separately from the prison’s other inmates, the commissioner said he didn’t know whether other prisoners at the facility were being tested.

According to data reporting from The New York Times, Mississippi is currently ranked second among U.S. states for recent new cases per capita, behind only Florida. And Tallahatchie County, where the prison is located, is currently ranked among the top 10 counties in the country when it comes to having the highest number of recently diagnosed cases of COVID-19 per capita.

More from VPR: At Least 85 Inmates Test Positive For COVID-19 At Private Prison In Mississippi


Baker said the department could not confirm exactly how many inmates have been infected because some inmates refused to be tested.  


For more information on Vermont inmates housed in Mississippi, head to the Department of Corrections website.


If you have a question or concern about an inmate at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, you can contact the Vermont Department of Corrections through this portal. 
Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet us @vermontedition.

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Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Emily was a Vermont Edition producer at Vermont Public Radio until September 2021.
Abagael is Vermont Public's climate and environment reporter, focusing on the energy transition and how the climate crisis is impacting Vermonters — and Vermont’s landscape.

Abagael joined Vermont Public in 2020. Previously, she was the assistant editor at Vermont Sports and Vermont Ski + Ride magazines. She covered dairy and agriculture for The Addison Independent and got her start covering land use, water and the Los Angeles Aqueduct for The Sheet: News, Views & Culture of the Eastern Sierra in Mammoth Lakes, Ca.
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