BOSTON (CBS) – The number of COVID-19 cases is going up in Massachusetts prisons. At the latest tally, 340 inmates are positive, and the state says eight inmates have died.

Keisha has a loved one with underlying medical conditions behind bars. She told the I-Team, “I’m very worried. The inmates weren’t sent to jail to die; they were sent to serve time.”

The surge of new cases has a prisoners’ advocacy group asking a judge to release some inmates on home confinement.

Elizabeth Matos, executive director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, said, “Home confinement generally means a GPS bracelet. We are talking about those that can safely be released – the elderly, those who are sick and those who are vulnerable to COVID.”

Matos said others in the group should include those whose sentences are almost up and are due to be released anyway.

Prisoners’ Legal Services said the state was ordered to come up with a plan for home confinement, rather than keeping prisoners locked up, to control the virus.

Keisha, told WBZ-TV, “It’s impossible to control. They can’t social distance at all. They share cells and use the same phones and showers. Everyone is scared; no one wants to catch COVID.”

In court documents, the Department of Correction said it is not required to have a home confinement program, but it is working on one that is discretionary, noting, “The commissioner has to balance the safety of the public with the needs of committed and sentenced inmates.”

Matos said with prisoners still living in dorms, double- and triple-bunked in some facilities, the state has done nothing to release people due to COVID.

The state said it has conducted more than 18,000 tests at state facilities, which house about 6,700 prisoners. The Department of Correction would not comment on the pending litigation.

Prisoners’ Legal Services hopes to have a court decision next week.

Cheryl Fiandaca