HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — Over 44,000 inmates in Pennsylvania’s state prisons are now under quarantine. The Department of Corrections says the statewide inmate quarantine went into effect on Sunday night.

The quarantine comes after an inmate at SCI Phoenix in Montgomery County tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, becoming the first case in Pennsylvania’s prison system.

“Quarantining the entire system is in the best interest of our employees and our inmates,” Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said. “This is essentially forced social distancing. We must take this step to contain the virus to one facility and to keep it from spreading throughout the system. I don’t want to wait until we have several cases in our system to act. We’re taking this proactive measure now.”

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All inmate movement will be controlled to conform to social distancing guidelines.

Wetzel says inmates will be fed in their cells and will be afforded out-of-cell time for video visits, phone calls, access to the law library, as well as being provided with in-cell programming.

“We realize this is an inconvenience for staff and the inmates, but again, we are doing this to protect everyone’s wellbeing,” Wetzel said in a statement.


The Department of Corrections houses nearly 44,600 inmates in 25 state prisons. County prisons are not impacted by this quarantine.

Statewide, there are currently 3,647 coronavirus cases, including 42 deaths.