The Coastal Bend Detention Center: Locked up with COVID-19

Robin Bradshaw

Two staff members at the Coastal Bend Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19. One of the staff members who tested positive is currently at home on self-quarantine, while the other has returned to work after meeting the return-to-work guidelines for essential workers issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated by the Florida based company and GEO,Group Inc. Corporate Relations Manager, Christopher V. Ferreira.

In April, a U.S. Marshals inmate at the Coastal Bend Detention Center tested positive for COVID-19. The inmate has since recovered and there are currently no positive inmates at the Center.

Getting locked up or working for the prison or jail system has all the right ingredients for a bad situation in COVID-19 outbreak terms. Close quarters, mass incarceration rates and limited staff are all hard realities for the public health crisis and the criminal justice system.

In Texas, the numbers are more transparent from the State operated facilities under the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). The TDCJ, COVID-19 information is displayed daily on a dashboard website similar to the Texas Health and Human Services website.The privately owned prisons like the Coastal Bend Detention Center in Robstown, owned by GEOGroup Inc.a company that is headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida have not been as forthcoming with the pandemic inmate and employee information.

Information gathered from the TDCJ website include a total of 128,796 offenders and 38,460 employees have been tested for COVID-19.

A total of 9,592 inmate offenders and 1,782 staff have tested positive, in both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing.

A total of 7,376 offenders and 999 employees have recovered.

Fatalities related to the virus include 88 inmates with an additional 29 under investigation and a total of nine employee- line of duty deaths contributed from the virus..

Currently, a total of 26 TDCJ Units are on lockdown due to the pandemic.