Third death reported at Lompoc prison; majority of infected inmates fully recover

Third death reported at Lompoc prison; majority of infected inmates fully recover

A third inmate death was reported at the Lompoc prison complex on Tuesday, while at the same time infections have significantly dropped following measures taken by officials to mitigate one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the federal correctional system. 

A Bureau of Prisons official confirmed the death in an email, but did not identify the inmate who died. It's the first inmate death at the low-security component of the Federal Correctional Institution. Two deaths were reported at the prison's medium-security campus, one in April the other in May. 

The third death comes when most infected inmates have recovered from coronavirus. At least 850 of more than 900 infected inmates have recovered, according to prison spokesman Justin Long, who added the vast majority of infections have been asymptomatic. 

Prison officials implemented an "aggressive" and systematic quarantine mitigation strategy and mass inmate testing at the complex that began May 4. Inmates who tested positive were separated for 14-days while those who tested negative were retested at 10 days. 

Additionally, officials converted an unoccupied factory building on prison grounds into an mobile hospital unit so that inmates wouldn't need to treated off-campus. 

"This systematic attrition process significantly shortens the overall span of the virus infection within the prison," Long said, adding the prison's mitigation efforts are proving successful.  

Despite reduced infections, Chrissie Rogers, 42, of San Bernardino County, organized a protest on Sunday that drew approximately 300 people to the prison. Hundreds held up signs and stood along Santa Lucia Canyon Road in front of the prison complex, while hundreds more paraded down the road in a caravan over a perceived lack of transparency and cancellation of inmate phone and email privileges. 

Inmate access to phones and email was briefly halted, but restored at the complex on May 4 and May 10, respectively due to mitigation efforts, Long said.  

They demanded to know why prison officials haven't released any at-risk inmates for home confinement, despite the March 26 Attorney General memorandum that gives wardens discretion to do so.

"I hope something positive comes out of this, people need to be released," said Rogers, who plans to meet with elected officials and organize another protest. "Why they're not releasing [inmates] is beyond me. No body can figure it out." 

Coronavirus Series: Local impact and reaction to COVID-19 on the Central Coast

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