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.