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Sandstone inmate dies of COVID-19 amid major outbreaks in Northland federal prisons

Duluth's federal prison also has been hard-hit, with hundreds of inmates infected, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

Federal Correctional Institution Sandstone.jpg
Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone (Photo courtesy of Federal Bureau of Prisons)

An inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone has died of COVID-19, the Federal Bureau of Prisons said Tuesday.

Richard Lee Red Fox, 59, died Thursday, Jan. 14, according to a news release. It is the first death reported at the low-security prison, which serves 838 male offenders.

Red Fox had been at the facility since February 2015, serving a life sentence for a second-degree murder conviction in Montana. The Bureau of Prisons said he was placed in isolation after testing positive for the virus Dec. 15.

Red Fox was hospitalized Dec. 23 after facility staff observed that he was experiencing shortness of breath. His condition worsened and he was placed on a ventilator Dec. 30. The agency said Red Fox had "long-term, pre-existing medical conditions, which the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease."

The Sandstone prison has been hit hard by the virus, with the Bureau of Prisons reporting that 703 total inmates have tested positive since the start of the pandemic. Only three inmates and three staff members remained actively infected as of Tuesday, according to the bureau's database.


The Federal Prison Camp in Duluth also has experienced an outbreak, with 212 confirmed cases among inmates. Only 299 inmates were listed as incarcerated at the facility as of Tuesday; the prison has in the past held upward of 800 men in a minimum-security facility.

Asked for information about the prison's COVID-19 response in recent months, local officials have directed the News Tribune to national spokespeople, who have not responded to inquiries.

The American Civil Liberties Union in December sued the Bureau of Prisons over the agency's handling of COVID-19 at the women's Federal Correctional Institution in Waseca, where attorneys said the virus has "spread like wildfire." No similar actions have been announced against the Duluth or Sandstone facilities.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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