NJ inmate set to be released this month dies of coronavirus
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A New Jersey inmate who was nearing the end of his sentence and preparing to leave a halfway house has died of the coronavirus, his family says.

Rory Price’s family got a call last week that the 39-year-old had died at Inspira Medical Center Vineland, according to NJ.com, which reported that relatives said they couldn't get in contact with prison or hospital staff for days.

Price had been incarcerated since February 2017 on a charge of possessing a weapon while committing a drug offense. He was transferred to a halfway house as the end of his sentence approached.

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His family said he was due to be released sometime this month and that they were preparing a celebratory homecoming party.

Price’s grandmother was contacted by the Department of Corrections (DOC) on April 21 and notified that Price had been admitted to the hospital.

The family said they were not contacted by the DOC again until a May 1 phone call announcing his death.

A medical examiner confirmed Saturday that Price’s cause of death was the coronavirus.

Price’s mother, Bernice Ferguson, told the outlet that several family members attempted to get in contact with her son but were rejected by hospital staff.

“We called all day long for days,” Ferguson said. “No one would give us any information. I said, ‘Listen, I am his mother. I gave him his name. I am his mother. Can you tell me what is going on with my son? Why was he sent to the hospital? What happened to my son?’”

Two days before his death, Price’s family was reportedly told that he was battling pneumonia and was bedridden but able to eat on his own.

“They told me absolutely nothing,” Ferguson said of the DOC and the hospital. “They gave me absolutely nothing. Me as a parent, I don’t think I should have to go through that.”

His sister, Jaqueena Price, told NJ.com that she didn’t think her brother was “treated like a human being.”

“He was treated like he was an animal. That’s how I feel. They just let him wither away and they never said anything,” she said.

The hospital declined to comment to NJ.com, but an Inspira spokeswoman said “the Department of Corrections is responsible for the communications with families of hospitalized inmates.” The DOC did not respond to the outlet’s request for comment.

At least 36 inmates incarcerated in the state’s prison system died of the coronavirus last month, the highest death rate of any prison system in the country, according to a recent study.

On Friday, the New Jersey Department of Corrections announced that it would provide universal COVID-19 testing for all staff, inmates and residents on-site at each of its facilities and halfway houses.

A Food and Drug Administration-approved Rutgers saliva test will be administered to approximately 8,000 employees and 18,000 inmates.