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Montana State Prison Inmate Died From COVID-19, Death Certificate Says

Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.
Montana Department of Corrections
Montana Department of Corrections

A man listed as an inmate in Montana State Prison custody died due to COVID-19 pneumonia in Deer Lodge on Oct. 24, according to his death certificate.

The man in his 70s had two other causes of death listed.

His death comes after 14 percent of the inmates at the state prison in Deer Lodge tested positive earlier this month.

Department of Corrections spokesperson Carolynn Bright told YPR Friday afternoon the department is investigating the death with the state Department of Public Health and Human Services and that any COVID-19 related deaths will be reported on the DOC’s website after investigations conclude.

The state has yet to confirm any COVID-19 related deaths at the state prison.

The state Department of Corrections deaths in custody report, which does not list cause of death, says Robert Gonzalez died Oct. 24 in custody of the state prison. YPR requested and obtained a copy of Gonzalez’s death certificate from Yellowstone County.

The appointed coroner for Powell County Friday confirmed Gonzalez tested positive for COVID-19 and it played a role in his death.

DOC reported four deaths at its facilities this month following the announcement of COVID-19 outbreaks in some DOC managed sites.

Another Montana State Prison inmate listed on the DOC’s death in custody report died on Oct. 16 of stage four pancreatic cancer and biliary obstruction, according to his death certificate. A different inmate’s cause of death is listed as “pending” on his certificate. YPR did not request the death certificate of a fourth inmate who recently died in DOC custody at the Riverside Special Needs unit because the DOC currently does not list any COVID-19 cases at the unit.

This week Bright said there are no longer any active COVID-19 cases at the private Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby, while one inmate remains hospitalized with the virus outside of the facility. Crossroads reported 225 positive test results earlier this month, or 43 percent of total inmates tested.

The Montana Women’s Prison in Billings reported a surge of cases this week with 47 inmates testing positive and 21 staff cases. According to Bright, as of Oct. 27 no inmates at the women’s prison are currently hospitalized due to the virus.