MADISON — Somerset County sheriff’s officials were working Tuesday to contain a COVID-19 outbreak at the county jail.

Robert Long, a spokesman for the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, confirmed the outbreak and said there were seven positive cases among inmates at the jail in Madison.

But Sheriff Dale Lancaster said later Tuesday that the number of those infected was 14. Thirteen of the cases involved inmates and one was a corrections officer, he said, explaining that he became aware of the outbreak Sunday.

An inmate pod is shown at the Somerset County Jail in 2019. County officials were working Tuesday to contain a COVID-19 outbreak at the jail. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

“We are presently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak in the jail and we have it isolated to one pod,” Lancaster said. “We’re taking some internal measures to keep it to that pod.”

Ninety-seven people were incarcerated at the jail Tuesday. The facility is authorized to hold more than 200.

Other jails in the state are also experiencing outbreaks, including Aroostook, Cumberland and Penobscot counties and Two Bridges Jail in Wiscasset.

Lancaster said he’s working to compile numbers on how many staff members and inmates are vaccinated. He explained that because the jail employs more than 100 people, it falls under the federal vaccine mandate.

“We do have a percentage of corrections officers who have been vaccinated and a percentage that has not,” Lancaster said. “We have also offered COVID-19 vaccines to inmates. I don’t want to say something I don’t have a definitive answer on, I want to give facts and I’m hoping to have that by (Wednesday).”

The outbreak at the jail comes as state health officials reported 882 new cases of COVID-19 statewide over a three-day period, with unvaccinated patients largely driving hospitalizations.

Nearly 68% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated, with Somerset County lagging behind with a 56% vaccination rate.

Maine CDC data shows that at least 4,318 people in Somerset County have been infected with COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Thirteen have died and 50 have been hospitalized. Of those 4,318 cases, 75 were reported over the weekend.

Despite the outbreak at the jail, Lancaster said it will continue to accept detainees.

“I haven’t closed the doors yet because it puts stress on law enforcement,” Lancaster said. “If you arrest somebody you have to take them to another county and we’re not the only county that is experiencing this.”

Lancaster has notified police chiefs and other law enforcement agencies about taking steps to minimize the number of people taken to the Somerset jail. The jail also houses pretrial federal offenders and inmates from Penobscot County.

“I was asking chiefs, state police, probation officers and wardens, if there was another enforcement action that we could take to minimize them bringing inmates to the jail, it would be appreciated,” Lancaster said. “All of the outside law enforcement agencies have worked very well with us.”

Like other jails in the state, Somerset is experiencing a staffing shortage. There are 13 open positions. The jail employs 75 people, with 36 of them corrections officers.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.