The state’s Department of Correction is temporarily suspending operations at two facilities within the next 60 days and working to place some prisoners in home confinement, amid a nearly 35-year low in the prison population, according to the department.
The changes would affect nearly 200 minimum-security prisoners in the housing units of MCI-Shirley and in the South Middlesex Correctional Center, a minimum-security and pre-release unit located at the department’s Framingham facility.
The department said in a statement Saturday that it has been in the process of finalizing a home confinement plan for some inmates. Other prisoners will be transferred to other minimum-security settings that can maintain social distancing practices.
The MCI-Shirley minimum-security facility is at 44 percent capacity, with 166 inmates, the department said. South Middlesex houses 26 inmates and is at 14 percent of the facility’s capacity.
“DOC will continue to maintain and inspect these units on a regular basis, and there are no plans at this time to close them permanently,” the department said in the statement.
The changes will not affect the availability of quarantine and medical isolation areas in other department facilities, or COVID-19 testing strategies in place for prisoners and staff, the department said.
Inmates moved to other facilities will be screened and tested for COVID-19 prior to their transfer, the department said.
As of Friday, there were 320 active cases among prisoners at the department’s facilities and 16 inmates had died due to the disease.
John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.