LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — Health officials are releasing new numbers on the COVID-19 outbreak at the Cummins maximum security unit in Lincoln County.
As of this Monday afternoon, 600 at the prison have tested positive with more results pending.
The governor announced Sunday plans for a compassionate release program designed to control future outbreaks in the state's prison system.
The program would allow some prisoners in the state to be released early if they meet certain criteria outlined by the governor.
"If it starts to crop up in other units, which we hope it doesn’t, then we will have to move people around within that unit," spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Corrections Dina Tyler said. "It could get to where we need to move them to other units, and we would need the space to do that."
Tyler says the governor has asked for a review of all non-violent, non-sex offenders due for release within the next six months. She says her department has narrowed that list down to around 1,700 inmates in facilities across Arkansas.
Those inmates will now be screened by the parole board.
"Even if [the inmate] meets the criteria outlined by the governor, the inmate is still going to have to meet the parole board," Tyler said.
Tyler says the screening process will be thorough and is likely to take several days.
"As far as a public safety threat, our job is to keep that at a minimum and as small as possible," she said.
To date, Tyler says the Cummins Unit in Lincoln County and the Arkansas Community Corrections Center in Little Rock are the only two prisons in the state with known cases of the virus.
She says this program will allow them the space to manage the spread if more cases arise.
Tyler says there are no set plans to test the inmates for the virus before they're released, but she says it is a strong possibility.