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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

First COVID-19 death reported at Stafford Creek prison after cases tripled from last week

Inmates rioted Tuesday at the Stafford Creek prison in Aberdeen amid soaring numbers of coronavirus cases fears that guards used excessive force against a prisoner.  (State of Washington)

Stafford Creek Corrections Center has had its first COVID-19 death, according to a Department of Corrections news release.

The news release did not include the man’s name, age or health condition prior to being infected with COVID.

The agency offered its condolences to the family of the inmate and said it continues to place living units on quarantine in an effort to limit transmission among the incarcerated population. The entire facility is placed on restricted movement, the release said, meaning there are no classes or programs.

The news follows a large disturbance Tuesday that some inmates called a riot as cases at the prison tripled between Friday and Tuesday.

In a report on previous deaths in the state’s prisons, the Office of Corrections Ombuds pointed out that high-risk inmates waited to report their symptoms. This might have been the result of fear of conditions in solitary confinement, the report said.

Katie Wilks, whose husband is in G unit, said her biggest concerns have to do with staff “playing musical cells” in his unit. She said her husband has been placed in four different cells with three different people in the last four days.

“We are still American citizens and still have the same rights as everyone else,” her husband wrote in a message to her Wednesday. “We were sent to prison to be helped and returned to normal life. How does anyone think that someone could ever be able to properly re-enter this country when our own citizens don’t care if we live or die?”

Danna Anders, whose close friend is incarcerated at Stafford, said last week conditions were “horrible.”

Susan Biller, Department of Corrections spokesperson, confirmed the outbreak began in the H1 unit.

But there was a delay of several weeks between positive cases appearing in the prison’s H1 unit and that unit being locked down.

That unit went into lockdown Nov. 29, Biller said. According to the agency’s case count reporting, staff first tested positive in early November.