Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut’s Department of Corrections announced Wednesday they have begun moving all offenders who have tested positive for COVID-19 to the Northern Correctional Institution.

The decision was made to mitigate the exposure of the highly-contagious virus to both DOC officers and the inmate population in prisons across the state.

The DOC says they are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for correctional and detention facilities “which recommends establishing medical isolation units where positive COVID-19 patients are managed in cells with solid walls and solid doors that close fully.”

For those inmates who are unable to be moved, DOC officers will create a medical isolation unit where the inmates already reside.

The Northern facility’s infrastructure provides for optimal air quality through a separate ventilation system in each housing unit that draws 100% outside air and exhaust it without any re-circulation. This is similar to ventilation systems found in most medical/hospital environments.

– Dept. of Corrections

According to DOC, all necessary safety precautions are being taken for transfer of inmates, “including the use of masks for both staff and offenders and a thorough cleaning process of restraints and vehicles at the conclusion of trips.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the DOC has rehoused 35 inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 to isolation units in NCI. 46 in the CT DOC system have tested positive for the virus, and 52 correctional officers have tested positive.

The DOC hopes this effort to create one, centralized treatment location will minimize the use of the very much in-demand personal protective equipment for medical workers.

Although no offenders at the York, Garner, or Manson Youth facilities (women, youth, those with acute mental health issues) have tested positive for the virus, we are prepared to treat any offender within any of these three respective facility should the need arise.

– Dept. of Corrections

Since March 1, the DOC has released more than 800 individuals to additionally contribute to coronavirus safe social-distancing orders by the CDC.

State Senator John Kissel (R-Enfield), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said of the transfers, “I view the decision as a prudent one, and I appreciate the advance communication about this move from Commissioner Cook and his staff.”

He went on to say that he stressed to Cook “that the volunteers at Somers EMS should not be used in the transportation of any offenders, and I am confident that my message was heard. I believe we are all on the same page on this issue, and I commend everyone at DOC for the tremendous job they do to keep us safe each and every day.”

Kissel represents Enfield, Somers, Suffield and several other north-central Connecticut towns.

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