As predicted, COVID-19 is currently spreading through Arizona Department of Correction (ADOC) facilities. Guards at facilities in at least Tucson and Winslow have tested positive for COVID-19.
Despite these positive tests, ADOC continues to disclose inaccurate data about the members of our community who are currently being detained. There are repeated failures to provide the protections recommended to the public. There has also been a failure to release people from these viral incubation situations.
It is not a matter of “if”; it is a matter of WHEN incarcerated people will die from COVID-19 in Arizona. Officials must act now.
In Arizona detention facilities the people being detained are being denied the proper personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of this virus. They are also, like most of the rest of the public, not receiving tests for the virus unless they have crossed a severe and dangerous threshold of symptoms, and often not even then. They are also being denied the appropriate cleaning supplies to sterilize their living quarters.
On all counts, the Arizona Department of Corrections and thereby, the State of Arizona and Governor Ducey are failing the members of our community.
The State of Arizona has made the people being detained in ADOC facilities wards of the state, and as such, has assumed a special relationship and responsibility for their care and wellbeing. They have an affirmative duty to provide protection because the people they are detaining are limited in their ability to choose on their own how to respond to this pandemic. The State of Arizona is morally and legally responsible to take appropriate steps to protect the people they are detaining.
The failure to release people from ADOC custody is an unconstitutional, de facto death sentence. The virus has been reported to mortally affect those who are older and those who have compromised immune systems, but there are also many instances of people dying from this virus who do not fit those constraints. In fact, even with the “symptom screening” that ADCRR Director David Shinn is reporting to be happening is insufficient because people who are asymptomatic are also spreading the virus. Furthermore, the Arizona Department of Health Services is identifying that it is not only people over 65 that are contracting the virus, and in fact, has identified that the age group of those between 20 and 44 have the highest prevalence of positive tests in the state. Therefore, there is no way of predicting who among those being detained or those working for ADOC will or will not be killed as a result of the negligence of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Also, approximately 49.6% of the 42,000 people held in Arizona prisons are between the ages of 25 and 39 years old. So, what is clear is that everyone is at high risk and ADOC is not responding with appropriate care.
The aforementioned issues regarding Arizona’s prisons and those detained within them were predicted by the community. This is why Mass Liberation Arizona, in coalition with 24 other local organizations released a platform of demands for all ADOC facilities in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Among those demands, the following three are vitally important:
- End the restricted or skewed/limited information on the conditions of our loved ones and our community members who are being detained in ADCRR.
- Prepare and publish accurate, daily reports on the effect and the prevalence of the virus in ADCRR facilities and publish this information on a publicly accessible website.
- Immediately release of all vulnerable people, people with less than 6 months left on their sentences, and anyone charged with an offense that does not involve a risk of serious physical injury to a reasonably identifiable person.
A full list of demands can be found here.
None of the community’s concerns were addressed before this became a problem. It is imperative that the State of Arizona, Governor Duecy, Director David Shinn, and Arizona Department of Corrections Rehabilitation and Reentry heed these demands and act now. Otherwise, more people will be infected and may be killed as a result of their lack of action to fulfill their obligation to protect our families and friends.