With the ongoing concerns of the spread of COVID-19, you may be wondering what precautions are in place to prevent an outbreak in Arizona’s prisons. The Arizona Department of Corrections recently announced it will lift the $4.00 charge for requesting healthcare if an inmate has Coronavirus symptoms and will also lift the inmates’ charge for soap temporarily. However, according to the ACLU of Arizona, Arizona’s incarcerated population still cannot adequately social distance, have limited access to basic hygiene products, and have limited access to medical care. Approximately 6,600 of those inmates are elderly and/or have preexisting medical conditions placing them in the higher risk category. Although there are currently no confirmed cases, 34 inmates have been tested, with 29 of them testing negative for Coronavirus; the rest of the results are currently pending.
Since 2012, there has been an ongoing lawsuit, Parsons v. Ryan, regarding the State’s inability to meet prisoner’s health care needs. In this case, the Prison Law Office and the ACLU National Prison Project recently filed an emergency motion asking the judge to order that the Arizona Department of Corrections develop and implement an adequate plan to prevent or deal with a Coronavirus outbreak. Although the judge denied the motion, the judge noted an extreme concern about the State’s ability to manage a Coronavirus outbreak within the prison system.
Democratic Members of the Judiciary Committee in the Arizona State Legislature have requested information from the Arizona Department of Corrections regarding the policies and procedures in place to ensure its adherence with CDC guidelines. The Arizona Department of Corrections has yet to respond to the initial set of questions posed by this Committee. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Arizona State Legislature is currently adjourned so the tools at their disposal are limited until they reconvene.
Without formal pressure from Arizona’s three branches of government, it is uncertain whether or not the Arizona Department of Corrections will develop and execute a plan in compliance with CDC guidelines. A Coronavirus outbreak within the incarcerated population will increase the risk for staff that work at the facilities, as well as the communities they’re a part of, which would have a direct negative impact on the number of cases of Coronavirus in the State of Arizona. A spokesperson for Governor Doug Ducey, Patrick Ptak said the Governor will not be releasing any inmates to mitigate the spread of the virus. If you would like to send a message to Governor Doug Ducey to request immediate action to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in our community, please click the following link:
*Castillo Law is not associated with any of the organizations or political parties mentioned in this blog.*