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By Cyrus Moulton, Telegram and Gazette Staff, May 6, 2020

The first inmate at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction in West Boylston to test positive for the coronavirus is a man who was released from the facility early in April for fear he would contract coronavirus, a jail official said.

“It’s kind of ironic that the first positive case we have in the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction was brought in from an inmate who was released for fear of catching coronavirus in jail,” facility Superintendent David Tuttle said Wednesday. “It kind of grinds our gears to hear advocates say that sheriffs departments aren’t doing enough to protect prisoners, and we have somebody who was released under this ruling and now has come back to us and he is positive for COVID-19.”

The man is currently in isolation and being cared for by medical personnel, Tuttle reported.

“All staff are in full personal protective equipment who are working with him … and we have procedures in place as to how to feed him, maintain him, and are taking his vitals regularly and caring for him,” Tuttle said.

Tuttle said he could not provide the individual’s name or other identifying information because of patient privacy laws.

But he said that the man was released in early April under an April 3 ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court that allowed some prisoners to be released from state jails and prisons in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

That ruling exempted prisoners from release if they were charged with certain violent crimes, and only applied to pretrial detainees and prisoners held on technical probation and parole violations.

Tuttle said the man was “pretty well known to us,” and had a “pretty violent background” with a history of assault and battery and assault with a dangerous weapon, in addition to probation violations.

Nevertheless, the man had a hearing in early April and was released on personal recognizance under the ruling.

“While out, he managed to catch coronavirus, committed another assault and battery and was sent back to us,” Tuttle said.

The man tested positive for coronavirus and was hospitalized until he was returned to the jail Tuesday, Tuttle said.

“This was one of our fears, that something like this would happen,” Tuttle said. “If you discharge someone early, and don’t have the proper plans in place, or services on the outside, it becomes a heightened risk of reoffending.”

But Tuttle expressed confidence that the jail could care for the sick inmate and those who are well.

“The professional correctional and medical staff have done a great job,” Tuttle said. “I’m confident we have a plan in place to take care of this individual and can prevent the spread of coronavirus in the facility.”

A spokesperson from the Supreme Judicial Court declined to comment Wednesday afternoon.