JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Half of the prison population in Jamestown has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to numbers from the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The DOCR reported that the James River Correctional Center had 211 cases among inmates as of Wednesday, Nov. 18. Spokeswoman Kayli Richards confirmed the figure represents active cases.
The Jamestown prison has 410 inmates, according to the state corrections department dashboard. Twenty staff members at the facility also have the virus, corrections officials said.
The James River Correctional Center has seen a rise in cases over the last month. As of Oct. 14, it reported a total of 15 cases since it started testing in March, according to data obtained from the state corrections department.
"Unfortunately, JRCC is seeing the direct result of how fast this virus can spread, especially in a congregate setting," said Richards, director of communications and public information officer for the Department of Corrections, in an email.
Richards said it was impossible to keep the coronavirus out of the James River Correctional Center.
'Our staff work diligently to protect those in our care by following all PPE (personal protective equipment) protocol," she said, "but staff still need to leave to go home, pick up their children, etc. and so it would be unrealistic to think that we would not be affected, especially with the rise in the rate of infection in our communities across the state."
As of Nov. 10, the prison reported a total of 163 cases since mid-March, which suggests there were at least 48 new cases in Wednesday’s count.
The Jamestown prison reported 62 prisoners and 33 staff members had recovered from the virus.
The State Penitentiary in Bismarck also has seen an uptick in cases in recent weeks, though the active case count is not as high as the Jamestown prison. The State Penitentiary reported 32 active cases among inmates, with 100 recoveries. There are 13 active cases among staff members, with 72 recovered.
It also reported a total of 10 cases in mid-October. As of last week, it had a total of 131 cases.
The penitentiary houses 622 inmates, the state dashboard said.
The Missouri River Correctional Center in Bismarck and Dakota Women’s Correctional and Rehabilitation Center in New England, N.D., each had one case. The MRCC has 105 prisoners, and the New England prison has 85, according to state numbers.
No one has died with COVID-19 at any prisons in North Dakota.
Forum News Service reporter Keith Norman contributed to this story.