COVID-19 outbreak sends York County Prison into lockdown

Aimee Ambrose

 York County Prison is locked down amid a COVID-19 outbreak that has affected dozens of inmates, officials confirmed Tuesday.

County spokesman Mark Walters told The York Dispatch that the prison in Springettsbury Township went into a modified lockdown the day before Thanksgiving. It's expected to continue for at least another week.

Walters said on-site visitation was temporarily suspended, and inmate movement was limited to essential travel only.

As of Monday, the prison reported 140 cases of the coronavirus, Walters said.

York County Prison in Springettsbury Township Monday, August, 24, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

He would not comment on how many inmates are being held at the facility. At full capacity — 2,400 beds — 140 inmates infected with COVID-19 would amount to nearly 6% of the prison’s population.

For comparison, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections reported 252 active cases of COVID-19 at state facilities as of Tuesday. That reflects 0.7% of the total population statewide.

“York County Prison is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases,” Walters said in a written comment. “Based on the prison medical provider’s recommendation, we must take further measures to mitigate the spread.”

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The county itself is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 infections, with 227 new cases reported on Tuesday. According to state Department of Health data, York County had 154 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

Sentencings postponed: The prison situation was discussed in a Common Pleas courtroom Monday as sentencings in two separate murder cases — those of Kashawn Flowers and Devon Moore — were postponed for at least a month because of the lockdown.

While the prison quarantine is underway, the York NAACP looked to ensure that inmates’ rights are not being infringed upon, that they have access to adequate health care and that they can still conduct legal business on their cases safely with precautions taken. 

“Our concern would be that everyone’s rights are being considered, that being able to have access to family and representation in a very safe way is important,” said Ophelia Chambliss, of the NAACP. 

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Kashawn Flowers

Though the prison is under a modified lockdown, Walters noted the work release center is still open with business operating as usual. 

Flowers hearing: The attorney for Flowers, 25, asked to reschedule his hearing, saying Flowers couldn’t be transported to the York County Judicial Center. Flowers was convicted on a first-degree murder charge —related to the shooting death of Hezekiah Walker in 2014 — at his jury trial Oct. 21.  

The sentencing in that case was moved to Dec. 21. 

Devon K. Moore

Moore hearing: In Moore's case, the sentencing hearing was moved to Jan. 5 in order to give more time to complete the pre-sentence investigation. Moore’s attorney explained an in-person interview wasn’t completed because of the quarantine. 

Moore, 28, was convicted on counts of third-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter at  his jury trial Oct. 27. He was charged after his cousin, Solomon Moore, 31, was killed by another man during a shootout Devon Moore allegedly started in October 2019. Prosecutors had argued Moore’s actions led to his cousin’s death. 

Moore’s attorney had also sought to reinstate a supervised bail for him, based on a $100,000 bond he’d posted in April 2020, while he awaits sentencing. The request was denied.

READ MORE: Four new COVID-19 deaths reported in York County as experts fear winter surge