By CN Staff
FLORENCE, Ariz.—Attorneys for inmates in Arizona have filed an emergency motion in federal court asking a judge to order the Department of Corrections to immediately work with an independent medical expert to develop and implement a plan to prevent and manage the COVID-19 outbreak.
ABC15.com recently reported that the motion filed by the Prison Law Office and ACLU follows a March 14 letter sent to the state’s lawyers. In the letter, the advocacy legal organizations wrote that state prisons are crowded and filthy breeding grounds for infectious disease, and officials could not provide documented plans and procedures for COVID-19.
Corene Kendrick, a Prison Law Office attorney who toured the Florence, Ariz. prison the week of March 9, wrote, “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. We are dealing with a life and death situation for tens of thousands of people.”
The emergency motion specifically asks a judge to force the Arizona Department of Corrections to suspend monetary charges for hygiene supplies, fees for medical screening, unblock alcohol-based sanitizer as contraband, and to come up with a plan that includes the following:
- screening, testing, treatment, and housing for inmates
- provision of hygiene and cleaning supplies
- health care and custody staffing plans
- coordination with local hospitals
- reduction in the density of prison population for inmates with heightened risk
- patient education
There are also concerns that the virus will have a heavy impact on public health outside the facilities.
“Failure to address COVID-19 in the state’s prisons also threatens the community at large, as thousands of correctional, health care, and other staff interact with the incarcerated population every day, and then return to their homes and communities,” according to the letter.
Many corrections officers, advocates, inmates, and families have contacted ABC15 in recent weeks worried about a lack of transparency, urgency, cleaning supplies and resources.
On March 17, The Arizona Department of Corrections released the following statement:
While the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry currently has no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, ADCRR Director David Shinn has taken proactive measures to protect the public safety and well-being of all ADCRR employees and inmates, including suspending all visitations of inmates throughout the prison system. The health and safety of our staff and inmates at the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry is of paramount concern. ADCRR continues to closely collaborate with Centurion, its inmate healthcare vendor, and will be responding to the plaintiffs’ motion in the next few days to provide the court with further robust COVID-19 protocols.
A federal judge ordered that ADC respond to the emergency motion on March 18.