Syringes to Sobriety

Stories and Advice from a Real Heroin Addict

90% of Arizona Prisoners test positive for COVID-19

We all remember the early days of the pandemic, watching other countries respond to the virus, feeling the weight of millions of jobs lost while the U.S. issued a wave of stay-at-home orders. An atmosphere of fear was palpable, weighing heavier than our new reality. A reality defined by invisible particles swirling around our heads carrying a previously unidentified, uncurable, virus hellbent on our death and destruction.

Ok, I admit this introduction may be overly dramatic, but I assure you, this is how each inmate housed in the Tucson, Arizona’s Whetston Prison viewed the outbreak after they were neglected and left helpless against Covid-19. I can also report that each of these inmates loved one’s joined in their terror and watched in horror, also helpless to protect their friend or family member.

First, we saw images of Chinese citizens wearing masks in hospitals and then footage of empty streets around the world, while we braced to see how our government would respond to the crisis. We can all relate to the fear felt at this trying time. For the most part, communities have come together, wearing face masks out of respect for others, washing their hands to prevent transmission, and staying home when feeling sick. Worried about how our world would fare, we did what we could to make sure our friends and family were taken care of, hoping if everyone did their part, we would all emerge healthy at the end of this.

In the midst of all the panic, a large (much too large, but that is a post for another day) part of our population was forgotten, completely abandoned. Worried more about people who had the ability to stay home, our leaders paid no attention to a population unable to protect themselves. Maybe some of us thought someone else would take care of it.

Problem is, nobody did, and the rights of Arizona state prisoners, although already limited, went ignored, their health and safety disregarded completely.

Put yourself in an inmate’s shoes for a few moments with the following thought exercise.

Can you Imagine?

Imagine, you are trying to turn your life around, keep your head down, and put your prison sentence behind you. You see the same news footage on CNN that the rest of the country is seeing. However, you are locked in a cage, with hundreds of other people, breathing recycled air, with NO access to antibacterial soap, clean clothes that have not been handled by others, and no ability to use a shower that hasn’t been used by thousands of other inmates. To make matters worse, you are told not to cover your face, even though there is absolutely no way to socially distance from other inmates nor guards.

How would this make you feel?

One of the worst places to be during a pandemic like COVID-19 is a prison. To make matters worse, the people in charge of your well-being are slow to react, making decisions long after the COVID-19 virus has had a chance to spread throughout the entire prison.

Let’s get a little more personal here.

These are not monsters!

Imagine being in prison for your second DUI charge, serving a sentence of less than a year, and BOOM, a Coronavirus outbreak is reported on CNN. (CNN is the only news channel available to Arizona inmates in Tucson’s Whetston Prison Complex. Go figure! If prison is how we punish criminals in this country, CNN as an inmate’s only option for news is akin to cruel and unusual punishment or torture.)

CNN’s reported the outbreak with apocalyptic images mirroring scenes from the Walking Dead. Flashes of empty streets in Wuhan and body bags being loaded into the back of vans, followed by reports of Chinese hospitals breaching capacity. After reports that Chinese whistleblowers had been disappearing, the newscast cuts to our very own Arizona Governor Ducey. Ducey emphasizes, “We will not be releasing any prisoners for COVID-19 transmission concerns.”

I’m sure my heart was not the only one sinking as I heard Ducey’s report. I started feeling desperate. I was desperate to make sure this two-year prison sentence RAD (my boyfriend of five years and partner in recovery) was serving did not turn into a death sentence.

Here is a bit of background on RAD’s case. Those familiar with my case (About ANA) may see some unfortunate parallels between the two. Most strikingly, how the ‘justice’ system decided to sentence us both to serve time after waiting over a year to bring charges. RAD and I had both made a complete 180-degree turn, learning how to live a life of recovery and start to be contributing members of society again in the time between our arrests and year-long delayed indictments.

It just keeps happening.

Unfortunately, this happens countless times a year to people who have made real efforts to change their lives. A defendant turns his life around, puts his heart and soul into a recovery program that works for him, builds up a healthy support group of friends and counselors, makes amends with his family, works on giving back to the community, shows promise in a chosen career, and just when he feels he may not have to return to drugs, an indictment is filed and he is sentenced to spend a few years amongst inmates who have no intention of changing their lives.

It continues to amaze me that courts repeatedly sentence defendants to prison and jail time after they have gotten their lives back together after a drug offense. For those of you unfamiliar with recovery, one of the most important aspects is to avoid resorting to the mentality you had while scoring and using drugs. Good luck avoiding people with this mentality when you are trapped in a prison. Unfortunately, some of these inmates that showed promise before getting sentenced, will fall back into old habits while incarcerated and may not make it out alive, overdosing on the first hit they take trying to cope with the prison conditions. How this is not murder by the system, I do not know! (But again, a story for another day.)

A successful restaurant manager, RAP(we use initials for privacy on this site) was pulled over for DUI about two and a half years ago. He had a previous DUI in college, so this was a repeat offense, meaning prison time was likely. Knowing this and realizing he needed help anyway, he immediately checked into a thirty-day rehab and continued with counseling after that.

He worked full time and stayed busy and sober, hoping the charges would not be filed. Unfortunately, almost a full year later, charges were filed. It had taken that long for the blood test results to come back so the DA could file charges. Much like my story, the things RAD had done to turn around his life were not taken into account before charges were filed. We hired RAP an attorney and, after showing evidence that RAP had turned his life around positively, the prosecution lowered the initial plea from 5 years to 2.5. With good time and reduced time from a couple of senate bills, we hoped this would be a year at the most. Again, like my story, RAP had to quit his job that he had worked so hard to succeed at and put his recovery on hold while he served out his prison sentence.

What is really going on in Arizona prisons during COVID-19 outbreak?

I speak to RAD every day, over the phone, as well as email. I had heard very few reports about how Arizona prisons have been affected by COVID 19 and, after speaking with RAD, I concluded every report I had was completely false.

I figure since I have eyes on the inside, I might as well share the truth with anyone who may be interested. I’m disappointed, albeit not surprised, that the media has failed to investigate fully to report the truth about how the prison system is handling the outbreak. But, you know, if the truth were exposed, Ducey’s plan may have been criticized. A headline reading, “Prison Staff Spread a Deadly Virus Among Helpless, Minimum Security, Nonviolent, Nonrepetitive Prisoners Denied Release During a Global Pandemic,” may not be the best PR for the Arizona governer’s office.

A few too many lies

The most striking discovery I made happened while comparing the official COVID 19 policy updates. Interestingly, the messages posted on the Arizona Department of Corrections website looked similar to the emails received by the inmates from the administration. However, there were a few VERY IMPORTANT differences.

The following is the first correspondence that inmates at Whetstone Unit in Arizona Department of Correction’s Tucson, Arizona, prison received from staff regarding COVID-19:

March 14th 

Arizona Department of Corrections, Reentry, and Rehabilitation Announces New Actions To Mitigate COVID-19 Risk 

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry announced today that visitation at all Arizona prison complexes will be suspended for 30 days, effective immediately, after which time the suspension will be re-evaluated. With additional cases of COVID-19 expected in Arizona, the Department is taking this action to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 within our prisons and its impact on staff and inmates, as well as to ensure the continued effective operation of the state correctional system in the service of public safety. This is a proactive step, and the Department currently does not have any confirmed cases within our community. 

My top priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our employees, inmates, and those that visit our complexes, said Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry Director David Shinn. Following similar steps taken at the federal level, this action aims to mitigate the risk COVID-19 poses for our facilities. We will continue to coordinate closely with Arizona’s public health officials as this situation evolves and communicate measures taken to protect the health of our community members. The suspension of visitation includes non-contact visits and applies to facilities operated by the Department as well as third-party operated facilities. 

Our policies for phone calls and written letters remain in effect, however, inmates will have access to two 15-minute phone calls per week free of charge during this period. We will continue to post updates about the Department’s response to COVID-19 on our website. For more information and the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit the Arizona Department of Health Services at AZHealth.gov/COVID19. 

In addition to this step, the Department continues to implement our existing Communicable Disease and Infection Control protocols. We are communicating with staff and inmates about how they can reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, including washing hands, sanitizing surfaces, covering coughs and sneezes, and encouraging employees to stay home if they are sick. 

The Department appreciates everyone’s understanding and cooperation to protect the health and safety of our staff, the inmates in our care, and the communities we serve. 

The most basic protection denied

No Soap, No Masks

In the beginning, I asked if RAD had been given soap, as I had heard on the news that it had been provided to all inmates. It was not until two weeks after I heard that news report that RAP actually received the soap, and even then I could not confirm the soap was antibacterial.

Also, RAP explained that many inmates had been wrapping clothing around their faces, as makeshift face masks. I thought it was quite clever. However, this was a short-lived remedy. The administration quickly responded to the makeshift masks with the following email: (the excerpts in this article contain the actual text from the email sent out to all inmates on their personal tablets)

April 3rd 

Subject: Homemade Masks 

We understand your concerns and fears as we are all dealing with this crisis of COVID-19. The Department of Corrections and staff here at Whetstone are doing everything that we can to prevent the virus from entering the prison system. 

You may start to notice staff members wearing masks, bandanas, or scarfs to cover their facial areas. This was approved by the Director from the recommendation by the CDC. Wearing these masks are only for precautionary means and for your protection 

However, HOMEMADE masks by inmates are not allowed here or any Unit within the Arizona Department of Corrections. Any homemade mask that is found on an inmate will result in disciplinary to include restitution for destroying property, if necessary. Masks will be provided to an inmate on a case by case situation (for medical reasons, determined by medical or job assignment, only worn on the job). 

There are currently nobody inmates here at Whetstone or within the Department that have tested positive with COVID 19. If any individual does test positive the department will advise. 

Note, the date of this memo was April 3rd. By April we were more than a month into the pandemic and, unbelievably, inmates were being told they could not cover their faces. However, it was also made clear that staff members had the option to wear masks.

Does this make any sense to you? 

Obviously, the only way the virus would be able to penetrate the prison walls would be if it were brought in by staff members. These staff members would then infect the inmates, who had been denied the ability to protect themselves with face masks.

Inmates were subsequently told they would only be given face coverings on a case by case basis. This type of irresponsible behavior by the Arizona Department of Corrections makes the incredibly high number of positive cases amongst Arizona prison inmates understandable, and quite frankly unavoidable.

Too Little Too Late

A FULL TWO MONTHS LATER, inmates received the following correspondence and were finally issued face masks:

July 1st 

In accordance with CDC guidelines, ADCRR shall issue all inmates face coverings. The following protocols shall be adhered to and enforced: 

Inmates shall wear face coverings at all times while participating activities in which social distancing is unachievable with the exception of sleeping, hygiene activities, eating, or for physical identification i.e. count, turnouts, or upon request of any staff member. While participating in recreation, education, programming, or video visitation, inmates will not be required to wear face covers but may do so if they choose.

At this time, however, inmates were still allowed to mingle between buildings during recreation time. RAP said, on a couple of occasions, temperature checks were done, but nobody was measured more than three times.

COVID-19 Strikes and a Standoff Ensues

A handful of inmates who had gotten severely ill around other inmates had been taken out of the general population, but only after fainting or spiking a fever of over`100 degrees, while exhibiting other symptoms.

A week or so later, rumors flew around the yard that an inmate who had been removed for being sick had passed away from the virus. No communication was afforded to the prisoners and this resulted in a standoff. Prisoners refused to come in from the yard until an explanation was given. The warden and captain were alerted and made an announcement confirming the fellow inmate had ultimately passed away from COVID-19 complications. This transparency diffused the situation for the time being.

The Compartmentalization Plan

On July 16th, the following memo was sent to inmates of Whetstone Unit:

July 16 

As you may have noticed, the compartmentalization plan has been enacted at Whetstone. The below restrictions and others will remain in place throughout the weekend for your protection. It will be re-evaluated on Monday. No movement in or out of Whetstone or between bays. 

Group activities such as work, programming, and education is suspended. 

Sanitation and kitchen crews will be the only authorized work activity. Inmates will wear face coverings while engaged in these activities. Feeding will occur by individual bay/housing unit (i.e. 1 A-alone 1B-alone) on styrofoam trays (at this time)in the chow hall. 

Recreation will occur by individual bay/housing unit. Chow halls and recreation will be sanitized after each use and/or prior to each use.

Talk about too little too late. Those of us in the free world had been locked down for months already by July. In a place where social distancing is impossible, to wait until the middle of July to ‘compartmentalize’ is a disgrace. The next step in this mess of bureaucracy was to start testing inmates.

Testing Two Months too Late

Here is the memo notifying the inmates they would start to receive tests:

July 29th 

Whetstone, 

Be advised tomorrow medical staff will be coming around to the bays to test everyone for the virus with the exception of the inmates that already tested positive. Medical staff will begin their testing process between 0600-0630. You will receive a sack lunch in the morning, one in the afternoon, and a hot tray for dinner.

The first round of testing was performed on Building 1 Unit A and B. The result came back around July 19th. (These are the positive cases referred to in the email above. Of the 100 inmates tested in this first round, approximately 80 tested positive. The positive inmates,even though they had been left with the negative inmates for a week while their tests were processed, were all moved to one building. Those who tested negative, but had nonetheless been in close quarters full a full week with the positive cases while waiting for test results, were dispersed amongst the rest of the buildings who had not been tested yet.

Ridiculous Results and a Media Coverup

By the  the first week of August, after the rest of the units had been tested, all results were reported back to the inmates. Out of 1000 inmates, over 850 were told they had tested positive for the virus, including RAD. ABC 15Fox 10, and AZ Cental all reported that only 517 inmates had been postiively diagnosed with COVID 19. This was completely false.

Inmates were separated based on their results, yet again. Each building was told they were entering lockdown mode to prevent transmission. This means each section of inmates would get 1 hour a day of recreation outside. This is how things remained until September.

I asked if RAD witnessed any staff cleaning recreation spaces, (ie phones, benches, tables, etc.) between rec groups. Of course. the answer to this was, “Seriously?” Wishful thinking, I guess!

We Should be Ashamed

Even the simplest of precautions had not been taken. Inmates were forced to spend more time inside, and we all know the worst place to be is crammed inside with other people.

This offends an inmate’s basic human rights. Not only have these human beings been forgotten during this time, but these inmates are in one of the most high-risk situations you could be bin during a pandemic. I understand these inmates are serving time for mistakes made, but most of us can agree our system is harsher than needed in most, if not many, cases. This is especially true for nonviolent, drug offenders like RAD.

Just imagine it were your husband, brother, father, sister, or best friend stuck in the situation I have laid out for you.

The Arizona Department of Corrections refused to employ preventative measures, only acting in reaction to issues arising from the pandemic.

Was it too much to ask for the system to protect our loved ones?

NONE of RAD’s fellow inmates in Whetstone minimum security unit are serving a life sentence, but, you would never know it based on the way the administration has handled this virus.

COVID-19 has the potential to be life-threatening, a potentially lethal injection to inmates just trying to serve a couple of years, keep their heads down, and get the hell out of there.

I have spoken to RAD and the inmates had finally been lifted off of 23-hour restriction. Now that most of the population is infected, I guess there is not much point in preventing contact anymore.

SHAME on AZ prisons.

WHAT THE HELL KIND OF CIRCUS ARE THEY RUNNING? We all knew things were bad in there, but I hope this really opened your eyes. With DUI and drug possession laws the way they are in this state, this could EASILY be you or a loved one of yours

. We should be OUTRAGED. I certainly am.

We all remember the early days of the pandemic, watching other countries respond to the virus, feeling the weight of millions of jobs lost while the U.S. issued a wave of stay-at-home orders. An atmosphere of fear was palpable, weighing heavier than our new reality. A reality defined by invisible particles swirling around our heads carrying a previously unidentified, uncurable, virus hellbent on our death and destruction.

Ok, I admit this introduction may be overly dramatic, but I assure you, this is how each inmate housed in the Tucson, Arizona’s Whetston Prison viewed the outbreak after they were neglected and left helpless against Covid-19. I can also report that each of these inmates loved one’s joined in their terror and watched in horror, also helpless to protect their friend or family member.

ABC 15

First, we saw images of Chinese citizens wearing masks in hospitals and then footage of empty streets around the world, while we braced to see how our government would respond to the crisis. We can all relate to the fear felt at this trying time. For the most part, communities have come together, wearing face masks out of respect for others, washing their hands to prevent transmission, and staying home when feeling sick. Worried about how our world would fare, we did what we could to make sure our friends and family were taken care of, hoping if everyone did their part, we would all emerge healthy at the end of this.

In the midst of all the panic, a large (much too large, but that is a post for another day) part of our population was forgotten, completely abandoned. Worried more about people who had the ability to stay home, our leaders paid no attention to a population unable to protect themselves. Maybe some of us thought someone else would take care of it.

Problem is, nobody did, and the rights of Arizona state prisoners, although already limited, went ignored, their health and safety disregarded completely.

Put yourself in an inmate’s shoes for a few moments with the following thought exercise.

Imagine, you are trying to turn your life around, keep your head down, and put your prison sentence behind you. You see the same news footage on CNN that the rest of the country is seeing. However, you are locked in a cage, with hundreds of other people, breathing recycled air, with NO access to antibacterial soap, clean clothes that have not been handled by others, and no ability to use a shower that hasn’t been used by thousands of other inmates. To make matters worse, you are told not to cover your face, even though there is absolutely no way to socially distance from other inmates nor guards.

How would this make you feel?

One of the worst places to be during a pandemic like COVID-19 is a prison. To make matters worse, the people in charge of your well-being are slow to react, making decisions long after the COVID-19 virus has had a chance to spread throughout the entire prison.

Let’s get a little more personal here.

Imagine being in prison for your second DUI charge, serving a sentence of less than a year, and BOOM, a Coronavirus outbreak is reported on CNN. (CNN is the only news channel available to Arizona inmates in Tucson’s Whetston Prison Complex. Go figure! If prison is how we punish criminals in this country, CNN as an inmate’s only option for news is akin to cruel and unusual punishment or torture.)

CNN’s reported the outbreak with apocalyptic images mirroring scenes from the Walking Dead. Flashes of empty streets in Wuhan and body bags being loaded into the back of vans, followed by reports of Chinese hospitals breaching capacity. After reports that Chinese whistleblowers had been disappearing, the newscast cuts to our very own Arizona Governor Ducey. Ducey emphasizes, “We will not be releasing any prisoners for COVID-19 transmission concerns.”

I’m sure my heart was not the only one sinking as I heard Ducey’s report. I started feeling desperate. I was desperate to make sure this two-year prison sentence RAD (my boyfriend of five years and partner in recovery) was serving did not turn into a death sentence.

Here is a bit of background on RAD’s case. Those familiar with my case (About ANA) may see some unfortunate parallels between the two. Most strikingly, how the ‘justice’ system decided to sentence us both to serve time after waiting over a year to bring charges. RAD and I had both made a complete 180-degree turn, learning how to live a life of recovery and start to be contributing members of society again in the time between our arrests and year-long delayed indictments.

Unfortunately, this happens countless times a year to people who have made real efforts to change their lives. A defendant turns his life around, puts his heart and soul into a recovery program that works for him, builds up a healthy support group of friends and counselors, makes amends with his family, works on giving back to the community, shows promise in a chosen career, and just when he feels he may not have to return to drugs, an indictment is filed and he is sentenced to spend a few years amongst inmates who have no intention of changing their lives.

It continues to amaze me that courts repeatedly sentence defendants to prison and jail time after they have gotten their lives back together after a drug offense. For those of you unfamiliar with recovery, one of the most important aspects is to avoid resorting to the mentality you had while scoring and using drugs. Good luck avoiding people with this mentality when you are trapped in a prison. Unfortunately, some of these inmates that showed promise before getting sentenced, will fall back into old habits while incarcerated and may not make it out alive, overdosing on the first hit they take trying to cope with the prison conditions. How this is not murder by the system, I do not know! (But again, a story for another day.)

A successful restaurant manager, RAP(we use initials for privacy on this site) was pulled over for DUI about two and a half years ago. He had a previous DUI in college, so this was a repeat offense, meaning prison time was likely. Knowing this and realizing he needed help anyway, he immediately checked into a thirty-day rehab and continued with counseling after that.

He worked full time and stayed busy and sober, hoping the charges would not be filed. Unfortunately, almost a full year later, charges were filed. It had taken that long for the blood test results to come back so the DA could file charges. Much like my story, the things RAD had done to turn around his life were not taken into account before charges were filed. We hired RAP an attorney and, after showing evidence that RAP had turned his life around positively, the prosecution lowered the initial plea from 5 years to 2.5. With good time and reduced time from a couple of senate bills, we hoped this would be a year at the most. Again, like my story, RAP had to quit his job that he had worked so hard to succeed at and put his recovery on hold while he served out his prison sentence.

I speak to RAD every day and we exchange emails daily. I have heard very few reports about how Arizona prisons have been affected by COVID 19 and the reports I have heard were completely false. I figure since I have eyes on the inside, I might as well share the information with my readers. I’m shocked it has not gotten more coverage. But, you know, if it got out, it may not look like keeping all offenders, even nonviolent, non-repetive offenders, locked up while a deadly virus was brought in by the staff in charge of their well-being, brewed amongst them.

This is the first correspondence inmates at Whetstone Unit in Arizona Departemnt of Correction’s Tucson, Arizona, prison received from staff regarding COVID-19:

march 14th 

Arizona Department of Corrections, Reentry and Rehabilitation Announces New Actions To Mitigate COVID-19 Risk 

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry announced today that visitation at all Arizona prison complexes will be suspended for 30 days, effective immediately, after which time the suspension will be re-evaluated. With additional cases of COVID-19 expected in Arizona, the Department is taking this action to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 within our prisons and its impact on staff and inmates, as well as to ensure the continued effective operation of the state correctional system in the service of public safety. This is a proactive step, and the Department currently does not have any confirmed cases within our community. 

My top priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our employees, inmates and those that visit our complexes, said Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry Director David Shinn. Following similar steps taken at the federal level, this action aims to mitigate the risk COVID-19 poses for our facilities. We will continue to coordinate closely with Arizonas public health officials as this situation evolves and communicate measures taken to protect the health of our community members. The suspension of visitation includes non-contact visits and applies to facilities operated by the Department as well as third-party operated facilities. 

Our policies for phone calls and written letters remain in effect, however, inmates will have access to two 15-minute phone calls per week free of charge during this period. We will continue to post updates about the Departments response to COVID-19 on our website. For more information and the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit the Arizona Department of Health Services at AZHealth.gov/COVID19. 

In addition to this step, the Department continues to implement our existing Communicable Disease and Infection Control protocols. We are communicating with staff and inmates about how they can reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, including washing hands, sanitizing surfaces, covering coughs and sneezes and encouraging employees to stay home if they are sick. 

The Department appreciates everyones understanding and cooperation to protect the health and safety of our staff, the inmates in our care and the communities we serve.

In the beginning, I asked if they had been given soap, as I had heard on the news that it had been provided. It was not until 2 weeks later that RAP actually received the so-called soap I had heard about. Also, RAP told me that many inmates had been wrapping clothing around thier faces, as makeshift face masks. I thought it was quite clever. However, RAP then proceeded to tell me they received the following email: (this is the actual text from the email sent out to all inamtes on their personal tablets)

April 3rd 

Subject: Homemade Masks 

We understand your concerns and fears as we are all dealing with this crisis of COVID-19. The Department of Corrections and staff here at Whetstone are doing everything that we can to prevent the virus from entering the prison system. 

You may start to notice staff members wearing masks, bandanas or scarfs to cover their facial area. This was approved by the Director from the recommendation by the CDC. Wearing these masks are only for precautionary means and for your protection 

However, HOMEMADE masks by inmates are not allowed here or any Unit within the Arizona Department of Corrections. Any homemade mask that is found on an inmate will result in disciplinary to include restitution for destroying property, if necessary. Masks will be provided to an inmate on a case by case situation (for medical reasons, determined by medical or job assignment, only worn on the job). 

There are currently nobody inmates here at Whetstone or within the Department that have tested positive with COVID 19. If any individual does test positive the department will advise. 

Note, the date on this memo. April 3rd. This is a few weeks into the pandemic and inmates were being told they could not cover their faces, but that staff members could. They were told they would olnly be given a face covering on a case by cse basis. This type of irresponsible behavior by the Arizona Department of Corrections makes the incredibly high number of positivce cases amongst Arizona prison inmates understandable.

A FULL TWO MONTH LATER, inmates received the following correspomndence and were issued face masks:

July 1st 

In accordance with CDC guidelines, ADCRR shall issue all inmates face coverings. The following protocols shall be adhered to and enforced: 

Inmates shall wear face coverings at all times while participating activities in which social distancing is unachievable with the exception of sleeping, hygiene activities, eating, or for physical identification i.e. count, turnouts, or upon request of any staff member. While participating in recreation, education, programming, or video visitation, inmates will not be required to wear face covers but may do so if they choose.

At this time however, inmates were still allowed to mingle between buildings during recreation time. RAP said, on a couple occasions, temperature checks were done, but nobody more than three times. Also, a handful of inmates who had gotten severely ill had been taken out of general population after they had fainted or spiked a fever over `100 degrees, while exhibitng other symptoms.

A week or so later, rumors flew around the yard that an inmate who had been removed for being sick, had passed awayt. No communication was afforded to the prisoners and this resulted in a stand off. Prisoners refused to come in from the yard until an explnation was given. The warden and captain were alerted and made an announcement confirming the fellow inmate had ultimately passed awaty from COVID 19 complications. This diffused the situation for the time being.

On july 16th, the following memo was sent to inmates of Whetstone Unit:

July 16 

As you may have noticed, compartmentalization plan has been enacted at Whetstone. The below restrictions and others will remain in place throughout the weekend for your protection. It will be re-evaluated on Monday. No movement in or out of Whetstone or between bays. 

Group activities such as work, programming and education is suspended. 

Sanitation and kitchen crews will be the only authorized work activity. Inmates will wear face coverings while engaged in these activities. Feeding will occur by individual bay/housing unit (i.e. 1 A-alone 1B-alone) on styrofoam trays (at this time)in the chow hall. 

Recreation will occur by individual bay/housing unit. Chow halls and recreation will be sanitized after each use and/or prior to each use.

Talk about too little too late. We have been locked down out here for months. In a place where social distancing is impossible, to wait until th emiddle of July to ‘compartmentalize’ is a disgrace. The next step in this mess of bearucracy was tro start testing inamtes. Here is the memo notifying the inmates they would start to receive tests:

July 29th Whetstone, 

Be advised tomorrow medical staff will be coming around to to the bays to test everyone for the virus with the exception of the inmates that already tested positive. Medical staff will begin their testing process between 0600-0630.You will recieve a sack lunch in the morning, one in the afternoon, and a hot tray for dinner.

The frist round of testing was performed on Building 1 Unit A and Unit… The result came back around July 19th. (These are the positive cases referred to in the email above. Of the 100 inmates tested in this first round, 80..tested positive. The postive inamets,even though they had been left with the negative inamtes for a week while their tests were processed, were all moved to one building. The negatrive were all dispersed amongst the rest of the buildings who had not been tested, or had not receieved their results back, yet.

By the end of the first week of August all results were reported back to the inmates. Out of 1000 inmates, over 700 were told they had tested postive for the virus. (this was way higher than the numbers reported in the media almost a month later)

Inmates were seperated based on their results, yet again . Each building was told they were entering lockdown mode to prevent transmission. This means each section of inmates would get 1 hour a day of recreation outside. This is how things have been throughout August now. I asked if RAD witnessed any staff cleaning recreation spaces, (ie phones, benches, tables, etc.) between rec groups. Of course. the answer to this was nobody.

Even the simplest of precautions had not been taken. Inmates are forced to spend more time inside, and we all know the worst place to be is crammed inside with other people. To me, this offends an inamte’s basic human rights. Not only are they bing forgotten during this time, but inamtes are in one of the riskiest situations when it comes to contracting COVID. I understand they are serving time for mistakes made, but most of us can agree our system is harsher than needed in most, if not many cases. Just imagine if it were your husband, brother, father, sister, or best friend who was stuck in this situation. The AZ prison and jail systems have acted in reaction to issues that have presented. Was it too much to ask for the system to protect our loved ones. After all, at RADs complex at least, most of these inamtes are sering time for drug charges or charges resulting from drug use. NONE are therre for a life sentence, but, with the way this virus has been handled in these insitutions, you would never kow it. COVID has the potential to be life threatening, a potential lethal injection to inmates just trying to serve a coupel years, keep their heads down and get the hell out of theer…

In the frist months of September, a news report ran on a Tucson news channel reporting that I have spoken to RAD and the inamtes had finally been lifted off of 23 hour restriction. 

SHAME on AZ prisons.

WHAT THE HELL KIND OF CIRCUS ARE THEY RUNNING? We all knew things were bad in there, but I hope this really opens your eyes. With DUI and drug possession laws the way they are in this state, this could be you or a family memebr of yours MUCH EASIER than you think. We should be OUTRAGED. I certainly am. 

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8 comments on “90% of Arizona Prisoners test positive for COVID-19

  1. Thank you for writing this informative and resourceful article on covid 19 in prison. I never knew something as bad as 90% of the Arizona prisoners. Tested positive for the virus until I read this article. The way covid 19 was handled in this prison is bad and reckless. I feel sorry for the victims of the virus. I hope they scale through

  2. Hello there, 

    The COVID 19 pandemic is something no one saw doing as much damage as it has already done and I feel really sad about the whole issue. So many things have been placed on hold and it’s been affecting lives so bad. Talking about the outbreak of the virus in Arizona prison, I heard a few things about it and really needed to get the full details and big thank you to you for helping out with it. 

  3. Wao that’s an astonishing number. The percentage of infected inmates in Arizona is so high. I appreciate you have detailed how much of all this has been hidden from us. I agree with you, these are not monsters. They deserve some minimum conditions to not get infected. Thanks for opening our eyes about this.

    1. The vast majority of inmates are in there for drug crimes and are nonviolent offenders.  The lack of services, ie recovery, job training, parenting classes, etc is already astounding.  I actually wrote my thesis on this very issue

      . As a result, the connections I formed with some of these nonviolent drug offenders helped me to thoroughly research this issue with Covid 19 and the Arizona prisons…and uncover the truth of what went on while the free citizens of Arizona were distracted with ensuring their own safety.(no fault of their own, we were all doing our personal best, and unfortunately, would not have been able to do much to get these inmates help or advocacy anyway.  Plus we were straight up lied to) 

      Not surprisingly, the adminstration’s response was more than just unresponsible.  

      It was negligent, and in my opinion, the prison administration should be held accountable. Maybe a taste of their own medicine? I promise you, if one of these inmates were released (let’s say one that runs a small construction crew)  and decided to put their own employees in danger of contracting Covid like the administration did with these inmates, the ex offender would quickly be in violation of probation and sent back to prison. 

      what a system we have. 

  4. Honestly,I value what has been shared here. I must say that the truth may be hitting sometimes but I really appreciate you for telling it. Honestly, it never crossed my mind for once to consider the people in the prison and how they would have been living. I really appreciate you for pinnting to that now. Thank you so much for sharing this in here. Well respected

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