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    Shandong Prison Officials Jailed Over COVID-19 Cluster

    The officials were prosecuted for failing to prevent a coronavirus outbreak at Rencheng Prison that saw more than 200 inmates and staff become infected.

    Local courts in the eastern Shandong province have handed down prison sentences to three prison officials months after they were criminally charged for failing to prevent a coronavirus outbreak last year.

    Liu Baoshan, the former head of Rencheng Prison, where the outbreak was reported during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, received the longest prison sentence at two years and three months, the Jining Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement Monday. His deputy, Deng Tihe, received a one-year sentence.

    Wang Wenjie, the former vice director of Shandong’s prison administration, was also handed a one-year sentence by the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court.

    In November, Shandong prosecutors said the three officials had failed to fulfill their duties, resulting in a serious coronavirus outbreak at the prison. In February 2020, Rencheng Prison reported 207 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among inmates and staff — one of the largest prison clusters to that point in the pandemic, before other facilities began reporting similar outbreaks.

    On Monday, a separate district-level court in Jining also handed down prison sentences to two other prison employees: A driver received a one-year jail term, and a correctional officer was given one and half years’ imprisonment. However, both were suspended sentences, meaning the two will only be incarcerated if they break additional laws during their probation periods.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: Officers escort an inmate at a prison in Shenyang, Liaoning province, Oct. 13, 2020. People Visual)