COVID-19 inmate says he should’ve never been put in general population at Denver jail


DENVER (KDVR) — The first inmate to test positive for COVID-19 at the Denver jail says he should’ve never been put into the general population.

FOX31 has agreed to protect the man’s identity. 

He was arrested Sunday, March 29 for misdemeanor harassment.

It was a bogus misdemeanor by an ex-girlfriend,” said the inmate, who points out the Denver District Attorney’s Office agreed to dismiss the case on Wednesday, the day after he was released.

“As soon as I mentioned that I had symptoms, I think they should’ve taken all precautions and given me a test right away,” said the former inmate.

Originally, he was placed in isolation after telling deputies he had a dry cough and shortness of breath, but once a nurse took his temperature and found no fever, he said he was placed into the general population.

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Denver Health Medical Center, which contracts nurses to the downtown Denver Detention Center, told FOX31 the inmate admitted to recanting his statement about having symptoms so he was placed into the general population.

“Never did that happen, that’s a total fabrication and that upset me. That upset me because they’re trying to blame me for them not having procedures and blaming me for making a mistake and putting me in general population, which never should’ve happened,” said the former inmate, before adding, “I was honest from the very beginning because I have no desire to infect anybody with anything.”

Once the inmate begin having chest pain Sunday night, he was taken to Denver Health and tested for COVID-19.

A Denver city spokeswoman said Denver Health received the positive test results Monday afternoon but the inmate told FOX31 that he didn’t receive his test results until Tuesday.

That same day, he was given a personal recognizance bond and released without having to post bail.

Investigative Reporter Rob Low asked the inmate, “How do you feel about the fact that you may have exposed other inmates and certainly several deputies?”

He responded, “I feel bad about it but I know it wasn’t my fault. I was just doing what they told me to do.”

The Denver Detention Center acknowledged two inmates were exposed and placed into quarantine. The detention center will not confirm how many deputies were exposed by the inmate, but insiders tell FOX31 it was 16 deputies.

On Friday morning, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the Colorado Supreme Court to provide guidance to county jails on how to depopulate detention centers.

“It’s a public health crisis,” said Denise Maes, public policy director for the ACLU, before adding, “Over half of the jail population is innocent. They are pre-trial, they haven’t been convicted of any crime and really the jails are kind of a Petri dish.”

Maes said in order to slow the transmission of the coronavirus, jails need to reduce their populations by only booking suspects accused of the most serious crimes.

The former inmate says suspects who are booked need to be better screened.

“I don’t like people impugning that I lied and making up a story that I lied trying to blame me because I never lied. I told the truth from the very beginning. Obviously, it was quite true because ultimately I turned out to be positive,” he said.

Both he and Maes said jails should test every inmate that comes in.

But the reality is, a lack of testing capability nationwide makes that impossible for the immediate future.

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