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DALLAS — Two Texas prisons, including one in Gatesville, have been locked down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, while inmates at other facilities are making masks to fight the pandemic.

More than 1,100 inmates at the Dr. Lane Murray Unit and nearly 1,000 at the Rufe Jordan Unit, in the Texas Panhandle, have been confined to their cells on medical restriction, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. As of Monday, four at Murray, a women’s prison, had tested positive for COVID-19, and one person had tested positive at Jordan.

Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases and deaths continued to grow in Texas, with more than 8,200 infections and 154 deaths, state officials said Tuesday.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.


All Texas prisoners on medical restriction were confined to their cells Sunday, said TDCJ spokesman Jeremy Desel. Restricted prisoners receive medical checks twice a day and can be moved off restricted status based on the time that’s passed since they were potentially exposed to the disease, he said.

America’s largest state prison system has had 19 prisoners and 28 employees or contractors test positive for COVID-19. More than 4,800 people were locked in on medical restriction as of Monday.

Inmates in 10 other Texas prison factories are making cotton masks that staff and prisoners can wear to help reduce the spread of the virus, according to the department. About 50,000 masks have been distributed from prison factories that typically manufacture shoes, clothing, mattresses and furniture.

The prison factories are making up to 20,000 masks a day. They are also producing plastic face masks.

All personnel working at prison units will have to wear the cotton masks. They will be optional for those in administrative jobs and parole officers in the field.

Inmates in medical restriction areas also have to wear the masks.


A 49-year-old state corrections officer died Monday after testing positive for COVID-19 while hospitalized for a heart condition.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said Tuesday that it was investigating whether the disease contributed to Kelvin Wilcher’s death. No one else at the Estelle Unit prison in Huntsville where he worked has tested positive, the agency said.


(1) comment

Inmate loved 1

This story is just sickening. Lane Murray shut down visitation almost a month ago. That was a good step. After that, the only persons coming in and out of the prison were prison staff. All TDCJ had to do is mandate that prison staff wear masks and gloves. After all, the only way the disease could find its way into the walls was through prison staff. Tragically, TDCJ refused to take the very simplest of preventative measures. Now Lane Murray has a virus running rampant in their facility. These inmates are the most vulnerable in society. They live in over-crowded conditions and don't even receive healthcare unless the can pay thee 100. Per year premium. Most cannot. Ironically, now prison staff are hiding behind the very masks they should have been wearing all along. Notice that general population is not being provided the same life saving protection that staff now receives.

When all is said and done, and after hundreds of inmates bodies have been buried, I hope that the key TDCJ stake holders are tried and convicted for Crimes Against Humanity.

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