Federal judge orders hand sanitizer, face masks for inmates at Texas prison

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Texas Department of Criminal Justice William G. McConnell Unit at Chase Field in Beeville. Jennifer Whitney for The Texas Tribune

A federal judge has issued a temporary order requiring one Texas prison to provide hand sanitizer and face masks to inmates. The order comes after older inmates at a geriatric prison sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice over its handling of the new coronavirus.

After multiple hearings and an inmate’s related death at the Pack Unit near College Station, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison in Houston issued a preliminary injunction Thursday night. The order also requires TDCJ to provide a plan within three days to test all inmates at the unit for the virus.

By Thursday, 327 Texas prisoners had tested positive for the coronavirus. A total of 531 tests had been completed of the approximately 140,000 inmates in the state’s prison system, according to TDCJ reports. More than 25 of the state’s more than 100 prison units were on lockdown — where all activity is halted and inmates are largely kept to their dorms or cells — because a person recently tested positive.

This story is developing and will be updated.