Nearly All Wisconsin Prisoners Who Got COVID-19 Have Recovered

Most Cases Among Inmates Were At The Waupun Correctional Institution

Waupun Correctional Institute
Waupun Correctional Institute in Waupun, Wis. Lauren Fuhrmann/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections reports that nearly every inmate and worker in a Wisconsin prison who tested positive for COVID-19 has recovered.

The department said Monday that of the 268 inmates who tested positive, 261 have recovered. There are six active cases and one who was released.

Among prison staff, there were 66 positive cases and 63 have recovered. There are three active cases.

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On May 12, the DOC coordinated with the Wisconsin National Guard and state Department of Health Services to test all staff and prisoners. The findings represent results of testing 12,552 inmates — roughly half the state’s prison population — that have been completed at 22 of the state’s 37 facilities.

“The entire DOC staff and especially our Emergency Operations Center team took proactive steps to protect both staff members and the persons in our care,” said DOC Secretary Kevin Carr in a release. “These latest numbers reflect the tremendous job they have done, so far.”

Groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, had criticized the department for inadequate testing of staff and prisoners. They have called on Carr and Gov. Tony Evers to release elderly and vulnerable inmates who are at risk of contracting the virus due to overcrowding within Wisconsin prisons. Carr has said his power to release inmates is limited although the department has reduced the number of inmates by roughly 1,600 since March.

In May, Carr told WPR that the DOC planned to test all inmates and staff as soon as it could be done. The department had limited testing to those showing symptoms of the virus until mid-May.

Most of the COVID-19 cases among inmates, 228, were at the Waupun Correctional Institution. The facility was the first known to have staff and inmates who had contracted the virus after a doctor tested positive for COVID-19 in March. That prison is operating at 36 percent above capacity.