There are currently 534 active positive covid results in New Lisbon Correctional and 249 active at Oakhill. There are ALSO 560 “inactive” positive cases at New Lisbon and 420 at Oakhill. Inactive being described by the Dept of Corrections as “sum of Persons in our care and youth who are no longer active and removed from medical isolation since noon the previous day. Deaths are included in this total” For most, “medical isolation” is actually the hole aka Segregation.

Hand sanitizer is not readily available, including no bleach for cleaning, etc. The hand sanitizer that is on hand is for wiping off phones, so there is no sanitizer allowed to clean cells or hands while in the cells. Lockdown means you are in your cells… thus, no available sanitizer throughout the day EVEN IF your cell mate is positive. Those in a cell who test negative STAY in the cell even if the cell mate tests POSITIVE.

We have facilities right now where staff is so short-handed that the staff who are working don’t want to enter Segregation to deliver meals. The kitchen staff is short-handed so that not all food on the menu is being prepared. Daily testing also isn’t being done, so “noon the previous day” can only be counted for those being moved back to general population from Segregation or those who unfortunately don’t make it. Active or Inactive is colorful language but positive is positive regardless how you spin it or try to finesse numbers.

These numbers are climbing.

To summarize, last year as of Jan 29, 2021 there were 19,858 persons incarcerated. This year, after all the talk of “reducing the population” and “expanded early release programs” etc, we are now at 19,922. 

We are higher now. 

By the way, the design capacity, or the max number of people the facilities are designed to hold, is 17,339. We currently have 2,583 OVER the amount that is considered 100% capacity. There is absolutely no way to social distance in these facilities. Even with vaccinations these numbers are rising, both the number of persons being added to the population AND positive Covid cases. 

Many people can be released. Probation or supervision extended, harsh sentences adjusted, electronic monitoring, time-served, etc…

We have to do better.

This article was written by Rebecca Barber, Nehemiah Re-Entry Housing Program Coordinator