Seventh inmate tests positive for COVID-19 at Middlesex Jail and House of Correction

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the COVID-19 virus. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP)

BILLERICA — Five more inmates at the Middlesex Jail and House of Correction have tested positive for COVID-19.

An additional 13 employees have also tested positive, according to a news release by Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian’s office. In total, seven inmates and 21 employees have contracted the virus.

Five new inmates to contract COVID-19 were tested on Monday after showing symptoms, according to the release. They were isolated in the Health Services Unit, and the sheriff’s office received their test results on Tuesday.

The first two inmates tested positive on March 27 and 28. The patients, who were roommates, were “immediately placed in medical isolation and are expected to complete their quarantine periods this week,” the news release states.

Movement in and out of housing units where inmates have tested positive is limited to those currently living in the unit and essential staff. Employees who test positive or show symptoms of the virus must stay home until they are cleared by a medical professional.

In the last four weeks, 100 inmates have been released from the Middlesex Jail and House of Correction as a result of completed sentences and action taken by the sheriff’s office, district attorney, local law enforcement and courts. Population at the prison has dropped by 15%, according to a news release.

“Since mid-March we have worked aggressively, both independently and with our public safety colleagues, to evaluate those in our custody for potential release. We have placed more sentenced individuals into the Electronic Monitoring Program (EMP), collaborated with District Attorney Marian Ryan and the judiciary to review individuals being held on bail, and made every effort to ensure court and medical appointments for our incarcerated population are being kept,” Koutoujian announced in a news release.

The number of sentenced individuals placed on EMP has doubled since March 20, bringing the total to 16, according to Koutoujian. Ninety percent of new EMP candidates are over 55 years old.

“We are ensuring that our responsibility as a law enforcement agency — to both provide safety for the community and access to justice for those in our custody — is continuing to be met during this crisis,” he continued.

In addition, 80 men facing pretrial proceedings have had their bail reduced after review by the DA and courts — 48 of which have already been released, according to a news release. This doesn’t include women held in Framingham or men in other jurisdictions.

Elderly inmates and those with chronic health conditions are a focus for evaluation for release, according to a news release. In addition to acting on EMP placement, the sheriff’s office works with prosecutors and families to identify those whose sentences may be reviewed in court.

In collaboration with the Massachusetts Bail Fund, the sheriff’s office was also able to identify and release 19 inmates held on low cash bails.

New admissions to the jail and house of correction have declined, as a result of local police departments issuing summonses for nonviolent crimes and courts delaying trials, a news release states.

The sheriff’s office began ramping up safety protocols to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 at the end of February, according to a release. On March 4, it enhanced medical screening for new individuals entering the jail and house of correction. The sheriff’s office also consults daily with an infectious disease specialist.

In-person visits by family, friends and volunteers has been suspended since March 13. As of April 1, staff are required to wear a protective mask for their entire shift, and provide masks to all inmates who request one.

Those with questions on individuals in custody are encouraged to contact Family Resource and Outreach Coordinator Lili Bonilla at 978-932-3517 or Those with urgent concerns outside of normal business hours should call 978-667-1711 ext. 0.

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