A CLOSER LOOK: COVID-19 testing underway at state prisons


Total inmate population as of 5/2020 was 16,694, a 1,065 decrease since 1/2020

ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) hopes to COVID-19 test approximately 9,500 inmates before the end of August, and that means all inmates will have been tested at least once.

Last week, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that all state prison inmates will be tested for the virus and that the National Guard will assist in getting the job done.

As of May 30, there were 16,694 inmates, a drop of more than 1,000 since January, 2020, according to an ADC board report.

As for the cost of testing nearly 17,000 inmates?

“ADC has tests performed at multiple labs and it’s not possible for us to know how much was paid,” said Arkansas Department of Health’s (ADH) Public Information Officer Danyelle McNeill.

“Mass testing of state prison inmates, and employees, was possible with the help of the ADH, additional resources with the National Guard, and currently, there is an adequate supply of tests,” said ADC Communications Director Cindy Murphy.

The 10 National Guardsmen are assisting the Wellpath staff, according to ADC.

Several inmates have recovered from the virus, however, there are ongoing active cases. Cummins Unit has 14 infected inmates, Delta Unit has 302 active cases, East Arkansas Regional Unit (EARU) has 12 active cases of 829. Of 1,277, there are 45 active cases at the Ouachita River Unit (ORU). Randall L. Williams had 285 positives and now has zero.

Wrightsville has three separate units: Hawkins Female, 95 positive with 58 still active; Hawkins male, 172 positives with three active; Wrightsville, 280 positive with 161 still active, according to ADC.

ADC did not elaborate on the testing at Varner. But, according to social media comments, family members of inmates said they’ve been told dozens of healthcare workers are at the prison and some of the barracks are on full lockdown.

Thirty-five inmates have died since May due to COVID-19 (or from complications of the virus), according to ADC. Seventeen have been at the Ouachita River Correctional Unit (ORU). The most recent death happened on Thursday, August 13. The ORU inmate died at  CHI St. Vincent – Hot Springs. He was in his late 50s.

“We want to thank the Division of Emergency Management and the Arkansas National Guard. This is a continuation of our ongoing commitment to promptly address COVID-19 in all of our facilities. This is a deliberate, responsible approach we’ve developed, working closely with the Arkansas Department of Health and Wellpath, our contract medical provider.”


(Editor’s note: 8/17/corrections made regarding Wrightsville data. Initially listed 28 positives, should have been 280).

2 ORU prison inmates die from COVID-19; 34 total

A CLOSER LOOK: COVID-19 behind bars; an inmate’s letter

A CLOSER LOOK: in prison and COVID positive … what happens next?

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