COVID-19 in Idaho's Prisons and Jail - An Update
Posted on October 1, 2020 • 6 minutes • 1210 words
Photo: Sagauro Correctional Center
Photo credit: Moss CM
Perspectives from the Incarcerated
These testimonies are drawn from the AClU’s Voices from the Inside
Kyle described decent protocols at first: extra soap, masks and bleach to disinfect their block. IDOC administration was keeping residents informed of COVID-19 practices over JPay email and a decent effort from staff to follow COVID-19 safety protocols. But now? no more extra soap, no bleach, no way to disinfect common surfaces, conflicting information from the IDOC, poor ventilation and poor compliance with masks.
As the virus quickly spread around the country, things here at the prison stayed business as usual. The correction officers I spoke to informed me the virus was not going to affect us here in Idaho, because we are rural and Idahoans are bred from sturdier stock than citizens elsewhere in the United States. —Kyle
The sheer number of A-symptomatic cases here, make everyone think the virus has been over-hyped."
Kyle also described some good news resulting from the pandemic:
- better food because the kitchen had to order pre-made food rather than serving regular prison garbage.
- case managers have brought us snacks every couple weeks (e.g. candy bar, word searches)
- phone calls cheaper by $0.03/minute
- cheaper stamps to send mail to family
Scott, on missing his meds and lack of treatment for his chronic traumatic encephalopathy:
Don’t get me wrong, I committed a crime, and I understand that there are consequences. That being said, I should still have the right to treatment for my condition. The punishment is incarceration, it should not be mistreatment and possibly ending or shortening of my life. —Scott
Scott also described widespread dismissal of safety protocols and a general futility associated with the protocols due to the high-density of people at the South Idaho Correctional Institution.
There are 59 inmates in a 50-foot by 75-foot tier without proper ventilation and we have no hygiene products. The prison has been negligent/careless and not even following their own rules of mandatory masks.
I have heard of only one death at the facility and only 200 cases, but we are not well informed about anything. We are always on lockdown without any recreation since June 20th and all programming and visitation have been canceled. I haven’t had contact with my support system. This has started to give me anxiety and depression. —Dana
But, ultimately I believe everyone not convicted and sentenced to death should be released, since death is a real possibility to all inmates with the Covid-19 in the institutions. I wish everyone luck in these days of uncertainty and crisis. —Austin
Updated Charts of COVID-19 Cases in IDOC
The vertical blue bars indicate the daily active cases, and the plotted points connected by a red line are the total COVID-19 cases among IDOC staff. Daily active cases among staff or prisoners were not tracked in the IDOC tally until June 14th, 2020.
Same legend as previous figure (see above). Figures indicate positive COVID-19 cases at IDOC facilities and Contracted Facilities.
Jails have dramatically reduced their reporting, to the detriment of community health and planning. As a result, we do not have a clear sense of COVID-19 infections in jails.
In Twin Falls, money from the Federal CARES Act, designed to “provide fast and direct economic assistance for American workers and families, small businesses, and preserves jobs for American industries”, is being used to expand the their jail source.
Nine people held in the Elmore County Jail are suing that jail for generating an unsafe environment due to overcrowding and insufficient sanitation protocols for COVID-19. They are requesting to be released. The Elmore County Jail has made any information public regarding COVID-19 infections rates in the jail or among jail staff.