For those wanting updates on DOC’s Corona virus response, here is DOC’s official (and evidently regularly updated) response info, as well as the Office of Corrections Ombuds COVID-19 resource page, which contains notes from a group phone meeting held with concerned families of prisoners on March 13, 2020. This WA Corrections Watch post was last updated on March 14, 2020 at 1:18 PM.
Things families and supporters have been hearing from prisoners at Monroe Correctional Complex:
- No systematic protocols for screening staff have been developed.
- Hand sanitizer, bleach, and many other virus-combating hygiene and cleaning supplies are considered contraband and are therefore not allowed in the possession of prisoners.
- At least one staff person is reported to believe that Coronavirus is a hoax meant to damage President Trump’s political future.
- At the WSRU unit prisoners from a quarantined unit are reported to have been allowed to have contact with prisoners from a non-quarantined unit.
- Prisoners say staff are not being told that they can receive compensation if they need to take more than the usual approved leave for illness.
- College programs and visits from prisoners’ families have been cancelled until further notice.
- At least one prisoner is reported to have been held past release date in facilities imposing quarantine lockdowns.
- There are concerns about insufficient prisoner access to immune-boosting nutrients and healthy, whole foods in WA DOC prisons.
A UW PhD candidate who has a loved one in the WA DOC system has created this form letter template for people to use when contacting legislators, the Governor’s office, DOH, etc. about Corona Virus response concerns:
On March 13, 2020 all prisoners at the Washington State Reformatory Unit in Monroe received notification that a guard who works on the A&B side of the prison tested positive for COVID19. According to the letter sent to prisoners the guard was last in the prison on March 8th. The letter to the prisoners was dated for March 12th and passed out on the morning of the 13th. A&B side will be locked down until March 22nd.Bleach and alcohol based hand sanitizers are considered contraband in the prison. Only porters are authorized to use bleach. The only cleaning supply provided is an “all purpose cleaner” that is so mild it is safe to drink. The prison is not providing people with extra rags or cleaning supplies. The DOC has told prisoners to put socks on the public pay phones to protect themselves from shared germs.There are currently upwards of 1,400 people 60 years and older incarcerated in Washington State.Given the deplorable history of medical care at Monroe (and in prison in general) it’s important that legislators such as yourself are prepared to hold DOC accountable and ensure they are providing incarcerated people with proper medical care. Here are some suggestions:
- Make alcohol based hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, cleaning rags, latex gloves, surgical masks (for those who are sick) etc available for free and NOT considered contraband
- Establish a quarantine location that is not in the living units and is NOT solitary confinement
- Prepare the hospital with necessary medical equipment such as ventilators
- Prepare to transfer those who are high risk into free world medical care
- Have additional trained medical staff who are not DOC work with the DOC to treat patients
- Enable the calling function on incarcerated people’s JPay tablets so that they do not need to use public phones (as of now, they’re putting up signs telling folks to put a sock over the phone if they need to)
- Set clear limitations on the use of solitary during this time
- Set clear limitations on the overuse of lock down during this time
- Test all guards and staff who enter the prison
- Make tests widely available
This is a crisis. There are tens of thousands of vulnerable people locked up and in the state’s care. Something needs to be done immediately.
A prisoner at MCC just sent me this on JPay: “Apparently this coming week is Sunshine Week, and TVW is highlighting what the Public Records Act means to Washingtonians.” Perhaps in honor of Sunshine Week (my new favorite week! I had no idea it existed…) we could all make some public records requests from DOC, perhaps pertaining to its Corona Virus response or its work with Vera Institute on solitary confinement reform? Or any other endless number of topics of concern… For anyone who has never tried doing this, here’s a guide.