Two Guards at an ICE Detention Center With a Major Coronavirus Outbreak Have Died

Colleagues say the men died of COVID-19. Test results are pending.

Inmates on cots at Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana while Mother Jones' Shane Bauer worked there as a guard.Shane Bauer/Mother Jones

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Two guards at Louisiana’s Richwood Correctional Center, where at least 45 people in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody have tested positive for COVID-19, have died in recent days, according to the local coroner’s office and colleagues’ posts on Facebook.

The Ouachita Parish coroner’s office confirmed both deaths and said that COVID-19 test results are pending. Mother Jones is withholding the men’s names to protect their family’s privacy.

On Facebook, colleagues mourning the deaths pointed to complications from COVID-19 as the cause of death. “We are going through it at Richwood Correctional,” one woman wrote. “2 of my coworkers has passed due to COVID-19 and plenty are infected y’all keep us in your prayers.”

“Prayers for my richwood family need as much as they can get right now!!!!” a second person posted. In response to a comment asking what happened, he wrote, “corona.”

LaSalle Corrections, the private prison company that runs Richwood, has not responded to multiple requests for comment. ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox referred inquiries to LaSalle Corrections, confirming that the two men are not ICE employees.

Richwood has more confirmed COVID-19 cases among people in detention than all but two of ICE’s detention facilities. Across the country, 425 of the 705 people in detention ICE tested had COVID-19, the agency revealed Tuesday. ICE’s 60 percent positive test rate is more than three times higher than the national average, further evidence that ICE is not testing many people who are infected.

Public health experts have been warning for more than a month that outbreaks in immigration detention centers were inevitable if ICE refused to use its power to release large numbers of people. ICE largely ignored those recommendations. 

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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