Inmates in an Arizona prison say they were ordered, sometimes with threats of violence, not to take COVID-19 tests so that officials could artificially present a picture that the facility had the pandemic under control, KJZZ-FM reported.
Stephanie Hale-Perry, whose husband is incarcerated in the Yuma prison, said that when it was first announced that the Department of Corrections would be offering tests to the inmates, he called her to express his concerns about getting tested. Specifically, he said that prison officials had met with so-called “heads” — that is, informal inmate leaders — to convince the incarcerated men to refuse to submit to the mandatory tests.
“The inmate leaders in his yard said that all inmates were to refuse the test, otherwise they were going to get a beat-down. The prison administrators told the Heads, ‘make sure the people in your building or in your run don’t get tested.’ They were threatened with getting beat up. They used violence and other threats as the scare tactic to prevent the testing from happening,” she said.
Suzanne McMillan, whose son is locked up in the same facility, made essentially the same allegation.
“The heads came into the inmate bays where they live with an SSU officer, and they told everyone ‘Do not test.’ They were told, if they accepted the testing, they would be shipped off to a different yard, lose all their possessions, and not be able to contact family members,” she said.
At least two correctional officers who work in the prison, speaking on condition of anonymity because they fear retribution, told the station the same thing — that the men were being threatened not to get tested. One said he believed that officials wanted fewer positive results so that the outdoor recreation yards could be opened sooner.
Ultimately, the majority of the men in the Yuma facility decided to get tested anyway, despite the threats, after learning the results of other tests in other Arizona prisons. A Department of Corrections spokesperson said that 4,500 of the inmates at the Yuma lockup got tested, while only eight refused.
The same person also said that reports of inmates being threatened over the tests were “unsubstantiated.”
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, prisons are places in which the coronavirus can spread almost unchecked. People live in tight quarters and in close contact with one another, while access to health care is limited. In California’s San Quentin, a group of inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 went on a hunger strike to protest their living conditions, which they described as “dismal.”