The Oregon Department of Corrections announced Thursday that three more people in custody have died while sick with COVID-19.

That adds to an already rapidly growing death toll in Oregon prisons this month. In just the past week, eight inmates have died, bringing the state’s total deaths of incarcerated people to 36 since the pandemic began.

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Most of the latest deaths have been at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution. A significant outbreak there has sickened many inmates this month.

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On Thursday, DOC reported the latest to die as a man between 55 and 65 years old who was housed at the Oregon State Penitentiary, and two men housed at Two Rivers. Those men were both between 70 and 80 years old.

The state Department of Corrections said it is vaccinating some inmates and is working to improve sanitary conditions. But prisons and jails in the state have proven to be hotbeds for COVID-19 because there is little room for social distancing and isolation.

In early December, several COVID-19 positive inmates were transferred from the Deer Ridge prison to the medical isolation unit at Two Rivers due to the growing number of cases at Deer Ridge.

Department of Corrections officials say the inmates were kept separate, though after the transfers, the number of cases at Two Rivers grew significantly.

Civil rights and criminal defense attorneys have consistently pressed the state to do more to limit prison populations since the start of the pandemic.

OPB’s Conrad Wilson contributed to this report.

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