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Federal detention center officer dies of ‘potential’ COVID-19

Days after news of a federal inmate’s death due to the coronavirus at the Southern Nevada Detention Center in Pahrump, the private company that operates the facility announced a staff member also has died.

CoreCivic, which runs the federal detention center, confirmed the staff member’s death in an emailed response to questions from the Review-Journal on Tuesday. A detention officer died on Sunday “due to potential COVID-19 related issues,” spokesman Ryan Gustin said in the statement.

On Friday, the Nevada federal public defender’s office announced that 29-year-old Brandon Patton, an inmate at the detention center, had died of the coronavirus. The U.S. Marshals Service later confirmed Patton’s death.

Patton was the first known inmate housed in Nevada to die of COVID-19.

The Pahrump facility is the only federal detention center in the state. The Department of Corrections, which operates state prisons, has not had any staff members or prisoners die of the virus, according to Department of Health and Human Services data.

CoreCivic on Tuesday did not release the employee’s name, “our of respect for the family’s privacy,” the company said in the statement.

“Our hearts go out to our employee’s loved ones, and we pray for their peace and comfort,” the statement said.

In September, three Congress members, including Nevada’s Rep. Steven Horsford and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, visited the facility during a congressional oversight tour. A statement from the legislators released in September called out the facility for their treatment of detainees under Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

The facility also houses people in federal Bureau of Prisons and Marshals Service custody.

On Friday, the federal public defender’s office said that conditions inside the facility are “unacceptable.” Attorneys have been attempting to have detainees who have not faced sentencing released from the facility while awaiting trial.

In August, the office filed a petition against the detention center regarding the facility’s “failing to clean and sanitize, placing infected detainees in solitary confinement, and creating an overall inhumane and unsanitary environment.”

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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