Penobscot County Jail. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A nearly two-month-old COVID-19 outbreak at the Penobscot County Jail is preventing nearly two dozen inmates from being transferred to state prisons so they can complete their sentences there.

The Bangor jail’s inability to transfer the inmates has contributed to chronic overcrowding at the facility that has led Penobscot County to weigh multiple options over the years to expand the jail or build a new one. The county is now considering an addition of 100 beds to the existing jail.

As of Tuesday morning, 10 inmates and one staff member were in isolation after testing positive for the virus, according to County Administrator Erika Honey. The jail has had an active outbreak since early October.

The outbreak has prevented 22 inmates who have been sentenced to prison time from being transferred to the custody of the Maine Department of Corrections, which oversees state prisons. It also has limited the number of arrestees the jail takes in.

There were 184 inmates housed in the Bangor facility, which is licensed to hold 157, on Tuesday. Another 34 inmates were boarded out at other jails around the state, Honey said. An additional 106 defendants are being supervised under contracts with Maine Pretrial Services, a private firm.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has an active outbreak investigation into the jail’s virus outbreak, according to spokesperson Robert Long.

The Kennebec County Jail also is experiencing an outbreak among inmates. Last month,  the Cumberland County Jail went into lockdown status to prevent the spread of the virus. The Aroostook County Jail in Houlton also reported an outbreak affecting more than half of its inmates last month.

The Bangor jail also had two COVID-19 outbreaks this past spring.