Arizona Department Of Corrections Releases COVID-19 Testing Data In Response To Court Order

By Jimmy Jenkins
Published: Saturday, April 4, 2020 - 8:24pm
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 7:06am

New COVID-19 testing information for Arizona prisons has been released due to a recent federal court order. The Department of Corrections must now issue weekly reports on how many inmates in state-run prisons have been tested and the results of those tests.

The first report, issued Friday, states "Twenty-three tests were administered to inmates in state-operated complexes, which includes one inmate who was tested twice. Of those tested, there were 20 negative results and three tests are pending results." However these numbers only apply to the 10, state-run facilities.

In a separate statement, the Department of Corrections said 39 inmates, throughout all facilities, "have tested negative for COVID-19, with five COVID-19 tests pending."

Comparing the two reports shows the 10 state-run prisons, with a population of more than 33,000 inmates have tested 22 individuals. That’s the same number tested in the seven private prisons that house just 8,100 inmates.

Prison Law Office Attorney Corene Kendrick says this is significant because "the contracts with the for-profit prisons expressly say that Department of Corrections will not send people with chronic or serious medical conditions to the privates."

Despite having a much healthier population that is less than one fourth the size of the state-run prison population, the private prisons are testing the same number of inmates as all of the state-run prisons combined.

The Department of Corrections has not disclosed any numbers related to the testing of staff members. But Clinton Roberts, President of the Arizona Corrections Association, says three correctional officers have tested positive for COVID-19. Two work at the prison in Tucson and one works at the prison in Winslow, according to Roberts. 

Roberts says the positive staff cases were confirmed by Department of Corrections Director David Shinn, as well as wardens at the Winslow and Lewis prisons. Roberts is calling on all correctional officers in Arizona to be provided N95 masks. "It should be a part of our uniform," he said.

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