Cameron County inmate dies of COVID-19

An inmate at one of Cameron County’s three jails has died of COVID-19, a report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards confirmed.

COVID-19 reports are updated by TCJS daily. The document, published on Aug.13, indicated zero active positive cases among inmates, no tests pending, no inmates in isolation, no jailers with active positive cases, and no jailers quarantined. No custodial death report had been filed with the Texas Attorney General’s office as of press time on Monday.

The Cameron County Sheriff’s Office referred inquiries about the death to the county’s legal division, which did not respond to a request for information by press time on Monday.

Last month, 398 inmates tested positive after the department’s physician asked officials to test every single inmate.

Reports confirmed that on July 1, the department requested help from the Texas Department of Emergency Management to test inmates at the downtown jail facility in Brownsville, then at the Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center in Olmito.

In the two weeks leading up to the discovery of nearly 400 cases, numbers reported by TCJS rose from 47 to 92. Those 398 total cases were reported the day after Sheriff Omar Lucio lost his primary runoff race, on July 15.

The high number of cases prompted a county-wide jail lockdown through the end of July. According to TCJS reports, the spread appears to have been managed, though the department issued no statements or updates on the status of the inmates.

Staff at the downtown jail facility on Monday confirmed that the county’s jail facilities are no longer on lockdown and that inmates can visit with attorneys. However, Cameron County District judges last week notified attorneys that jury trials likely will not be possible until next year.

Cameron County has not held a jury trial since February. The District Attorney’s Office was working to facilitate plea agreements to potentially coordinate the release of nonviolent offenders in light of ongoing postponements.

According to CDC guidance, social distancing as an option within correctional and detention settings “can be limited”. Medical experts and advocates have warned since the pandemic began that prisoners cannot social distance while locked inside cells.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com