PEER recommended that the MDOC make some adjustments to their reporting system and implement now elements to its disaster preparedness response. 

The Mississippi Legislative PEER Committee recently released a report that took a look at the Mississippi Department of Corrections response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report specifically addresses the MDOC’s initial and current responses to the virus as well as how the Division of Institutes, which includes state-owned, private, joint county and other correctional facilities.

These responses were based on the Center for Disease Control’s Interim Guidance on Management of Coronavirus Diseases in 2019 in Correctional and Detention Facilities.

The brief also provides an overview of COVID-19 statistics regarding the number of positive cases, vaccination rates, and COVID-19 deaths by MDOC facility. Lastly, this brief addresses lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that could be applied to future health emergencies, reviews MDOC’s use of COVID-19 federal funds, and compares MDOC’s medical expenditures prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Major findings from the report include:

  • MDOC focused its efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 within its facilities rather than on testing inmates to determine exposure for early identification of COVID-19 cases.
  • Commissioner Cain noted that MDOC’s strategy was designed to eliminate and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 rather than focusing on testing for early identification of the virus. According to MSDH leadership, MDOC even declined direct financial support through a COVID-19 testing program designed for correctional facilities.
  • MSDH provided MDOC with two optional programs designed for correctional facilities that would utilize federal funding to reimburse COVID-19 tests administered in accordance with MSDH recommendations.
  • MDOC administered the COVID-19 vaccine at a much higher rate in comparison to the general population (i.e., 93% of inmates vaccinated with at least one dose versus 65.2% of the Mississippi population ages 18 to 64).
  • According to VitalCore, COVID-related deaths account for only 1.8% of the total reported positive cases. However, it is uncertain if this number is reflective of the true COVID-related death count.
  • MDOC received $20 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in 2020, and $80 million in federal funds through the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) Act in 2021.
  • While MDOC medical spending continued to increase from FY 2018 through FY 2021, the greatest increase in medical spending was attributed to the change in the contracted medical provider prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PEER report recommended three major action items after their report was finalized. They recommended that the MDOC should incorporate applicable elements from its COVID-19 Pandemic Response Plan to its overall disaster/emergency preparedness strategy. They also urged the department to review the data that was submitted by VitalCore and the county and regional facilities in order to ensure accuracy. Lastly, they recommended that the MDOC standardize reporting requirements among all of its facilities.

You can read the full report below: 

PEER report on MDOC by yallpolitics on Scribd