Reporting from Arizona State Prison Complex, East Unit, Florence, Ariz.
Approximately 780 prisoners are housed here in quonset huts. Each houses 11 prisoners in cubicles about seven feet by eight feet, with a three-foot high wall. Beds are about five feet apart. We share one bathroom with one toilet and one sink.
Right now there are two free calls a week and the phones are about two feet apart. Only about 10 work currently. Needless to say it gets very crowded, no physical distancing occurs at all, and approximately 10 to 30 prisoners utilize each phone for 15-minute calls back to back. It’s a COVID-19 hot spot.
There is allowed all sports, basketball, baseball, horseshoes and card games also poker games. Church services still occur. Only visits have been taken.
The place where we all eat three meals a day is another COVID-19 hot spot. When the chow hall is open all prisoners head to a long line to eat; no physical distancing occurs. When seated at a six-man table, with seating of three on each side, we are elbow to elbow and only three feet across from one another.
The store line is another hot spot. We are forced to wait in an area fenced in, about 10 to 15 prisoners cram in the area to get their store and commissary ordered. And the spending limit has been increased for all prisoners, encouraging prisoners, like the phones, to partake in the “incentive” when it is placing us at risk.
Most correctional officers wear masks; some don’t. Hand soap is available but not consistently. Hand sanitizer stations were installed but never refilled once out of sanitizer.
Do I feel safe? Absolutely not. I bleach the phone before use, do not go to the chow hall and wait until last call for the store.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.