Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Arizona Corrections Changes Healthcare Policies Under Pressure from COVID-19

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2020 at 12:33 PM

Arizona Department of Corrections

The Arizona Department of Corrections today changed their healthcare policies for people incarcerated within their facilities, after a federal judge ordered them to respond to concerns about the COVID-19 virus outbreak and the high likelihood of infection spreading within prisons.

ADC usually requires a $4 co-pay from incarcerated individuals to receive medical care, even if that means just seeing a nurse. Many people inside prisons cannot pay this fee, since they are already required to pay for things like soap, toothpaste and other basic supplies for personal hygiene.

Because of the concerns over COVID-19, ADC has announced they will waive the $4 co-pay only for those who have cold and flu symptoms, and will make soap available for free to the incarcerated population.

The department also put a halt on all "routine internal movement" across all state prison complexes, but specialty needs for individual movement will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

ADC is now requiring all employees entering their facilities to go through a screening where they are asked health questions, with prison healthcare provider Centurion checking for symptoms of COVID-19 continuously.

As of Monday, the department has permitted incarcerated individuals to have two 15-minute phone calls per week at no charge to allow them to keep in touch with family during the virus outbreak. So far, a reported 6,339 free calls have been made.

Federal Judge Roslyn Silver's order came quickly after attorneys from the Prison Law Office and the Arizona Civil Liberties Union requested that the courts intervene, according to reporting from KJZZ in Phoenix.

On Monday, local prisoner advocacy organization American Friends Service Committee-Arizona delivered an open letter to Governor Doug Ducey and ADC Director David Shinn, calling on them to take further necessary steps to ensure that the COVID-19 outbreak does not harm one of Arizona's most vulnerable populations.

They call for ADC to comply with the CDC and AZDHS guidelines, eliminate co-pays, provide free access to soap and other sanitary and cleaning products, provide detailed information on a regular basis, implement medical quarantine when appropriate and take steps to mitigate its harmful effects, ensure incarcerated individuals can meaningfully contribute to their legal case, implement an emergency staffing plan, allow incarcerated people to contact their loved ones, create a plan to transfer people whose care cannot be safely managed in prison, compile a list of people to prioritize for release, expedite the process of clemency review for cases of elderly and chronically/terminally ill incarcerated people, suspend revocations to prison for technical probation and parole violations, immediately release any and all incarcerated people who qualify for the Transition Program and/or SB 1310, and suspend or reduce the number of prison admissions for low-level drug offenses, or other short-term, low-risk individuals.

As of today's Arizona Department of Health Services report, five people in Pima County have tested tested positive for COVID-19. In Arizona, a total of 15 people have tested positive, 102 cases are still pending and 148 have been ruled out. Statewide numbers are updated here.

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