SMETHPORT — An inmate in the custody of McKean County died on Tuesday at an area hospital, likely from COVID-19.
On Wednesday, McKean County Sheriff Dan Woods, who serves as the warden of the county jail, confirmed the death, but declined to release the inmate’s name.
Sources indicate the inmate was Daniel Roach, 45, who was incarcerated awaiting trial on charges including rape, assault and drugs in one case. There were six other criminal cases as well, including one involving an alleged drug deal where Roach fired a gun in an occupied residence and another where he allegedly smuggled drugs into a residential treatment program to provide them to an underage patient, according to court documents.
Woods said the inmate was in custody, as there were corrections officers at the hospital with him when he died. He added that it is “extremely rare” for an inmate to die in custody in McKean County.
He mentioned an inmate last year who died in New York state after he had been released, and a few years ago, an inmate who had a heart attack in his cell and passed away.
“It wears on me,” Woods said. “Nobody wishes that on anyone. We did everything we could. We sent him to where he could get appropriate care.”
Woods said he hadn’t seen the death certificate, but added, “I know COVID is going to be considered the cause of death, but there were underlying medical issues there as well.”
He explained there are three inmates at the jail who have tested positive for COVID, and several others who are showing symptoms. “It’s isolated to one block. They are obviously getting the medical treatment they need. I can’t get into too many details.”
An inmate who called The Era said the inmates aren’t being tested for COVID.
Woods said that is true, because “it wouldn’t change the treatment.”
When someone shows signs, they are treated. “We follow all the protocols,” Woods said.
When the pandemic first began, and the county was on lockdown and under a judicial emergency, the jail was at a low of 38 inmates. Now, it averages 75 to 80 in a jail that houses a total of 106.
“Space limits a lot on how you can separate inmates and isolate new inmates,” Woods said. “I have a total of six isolation cells, and I have other reasons to use them than just COVID.”
When new inmates arrive, they are kept in a group in the gym before being moved to a cell block.
“Corrections officers are required to wear masks,” Woods said. “The (inmates on the block) were provided with masks. I don’t think they’ve chosen to wear them.”
He said the quarantine period for the cell block is planned to end on Monday unless another complication arises.