2nd Stateville prison inmate dies of COVID-19

The death comes six days after authorities announced another inmate at the correctional facility in Crest Hill had succumbed to the coronavirus, marking the first death from the disease at an Illinois prison.

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Stateville Correctional Center

Sun-Times file photo

Officials announced Sunday that a second inmate at Stateville Correctional Center has died of COVID-19.

Ronald Rice, 66, was being treated at Morris Hospital when he succumbed to the disease, according to the Grundy County coroner’s office.

Rice began a 60-year sentence at Stateville in 1982 after being convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy in Calumet City. While serving that sentence, Rice got 80 more years when he pleaded guilty in 2010 to molesting and killing another 11-year-old boy in Oak Forest nearly three decades earlier. He had previously served six months in connection with the same case after telling authorities in 1980 that he struck the boy with his car and hid the body.

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Ronald Rice

Illinois Department of Corrections

Rice’s death comes six days after authorities announced another inmate at the correctional facility in Crest Hill had died from the coronavirus, marking the first death from the disease at an Illinois prison. By then, the Illinois Department of Corrections had placed Stateville and the Sheridan Correctional Center on a two-week lockdown after both inmates and staff had tested positive for the virus.

On Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office announced that 30 medics from the Illinois Army National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team were being sent to the prison to set up medical tents, triage and provide care for inmates. The service members were expected to arrive by the end of the week.

By Sunday, 26 Stateville staff members and 56 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases have also been reported at 10 other Illinois prison facilities, with six more inmates and 11 other employees testing positive for the disease.

In addition to treating prisoners on site, Pritzker announced Tuesday that any inmate “who falls seriously ill with COVID-19 will receive available medical assistance to get through it, including an ICU bed and a ventilator if necessary.”

“My administration will not be in the business of claiming one life is worth more than another,” Pritzker said.

Advocates for inmates have complained about the prison system not doing more to grant early release to non-violent offenders, prisoners nearing an end of their sentence and thousands of others they say should be let out.

A federal lawsuit was filed last week in an attempt to reduce Illinois’ prison population to prevent more inmates from being infected with the coronavirus.

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