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Arizona Department of Corrections releases COVID-19 prevention actions

Arizona Department of Corrections
Posted at 10:16 AM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 22:13:00-04

PHOENIX — After criticism for not having a coronavirus prevent plan in place, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry released Wednesday a set of actions it’s taking to mitigate and manage an outbreak.

Some of the key actions include:

- A suspension of all visitation, legal and non-legal
- A waiver of co-pays for inmates who need medical attention for cold and flu-like symptoms
- Free hand soap to all inmates upon request
- Weekly deep cleaning of all facilities
- All employees entering prison complexes will undergo disease symptom checks

“The health and safety of our staff and inmates at (ADCRR) is our paramount concern,” said Director David Shinn in a prepared written statement.

A copy of the department’s release can be found here.

Department insiders told ABC15 the screening for employees begins with a basic three question survey:
Do you have symptoms?
Have you traveled to countries with coronavirus?
Do you have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees?

If yes to any of those questions, those employees will be sent for a secondary screening by health providers inside the prisons and then have a virtual visit with a medical professional.

Sources also told ABC15 that many prisons don’t yet have adequate supplies to do “deep cleans.”

On Monday, advocate attorneys with the Prison Law Office and ACLU filed an emergency motion in federal court asking a judge to intervene and require ADCRR to release its plan for managing COVID-19 and waiving fees for inmates seeking medical care.

A judge has given ADCRR lawyers until the end of Wednesday to respond to the motion.

“We are extremely concerned that ADC and Centurion were unable to describe any plans to address the pandemic or to protect and treat the many elderly and ill patients in the prison beyond stating that they planned to come up with a plan,” according to a letter written last weekend by Corene Kendrick, a Prison Law Office attorney who toured the Florence prison last week.

“We are dealing with a life and death situation for tens of thousands of people.”

Multiple sources also told ABC15 Wednesday that multiple inmates inside Florence prison were sick and exhibiting high fevers. A department spokesperson responded, "We have not been informed at this point of any COVID-19 confirmed cases."

Prison officials also didn't directly answer a question about whether any inmates or staff had actually been tested for the virus.

In recent weeks, advocates, attorneys, inmates and their families have raised repeated concerns about the state’s readiness to manage COVID-19.

The state prison system has more than 42,000 inmates and more than 9,000 employees. An outbreak could have significant public health implications.

Kendrick and others have said the prisons are filthy and “breeding grounds” for disease.

Attorneys said during a recent tour inmates told them that staff had confiscated extra soap and hygiene materials from prisoners with elevated health risks.

As part of an ongoing class-action lawsuit, Arizona has been sanctioned and fined repeatedly for failing to deliver a constitutional level of healthcare inside its facilities

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at