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Group Asks County, City Officials to Extend Mask Requirement to Prisons and Jails

By AFSC-AZ Staff |

Citing inaction from the Arizona Department of Corrections, Reentry and Rehabilitation (ADCRR) in the face of skyrocketing rates of COVID19 infections in state prisons, the American Friends Service Committee—Arizona (AFSC-AZ) is turning to local officials for leadership.

Last week, after Governor Ducey announced that he would allow local governments to draft their own policies on masks, several Counties and Cities quickly passed proclamations requiring people to cover their faces when in public in an effort to contain the COVID19 pandemic.

Today, AFSC-AZ sent a letter to elected leaders of Cities and Counties who have passed mask ordinances and who also host prisons and jails, including Yuma, Maricopa, and Pima County and the cities of Yuma, Goodyear, Buckeye, and Tucson. The letter asks the Supervisors, Mayors, Sheriffs, and Council members of these towns to ensure that the requirement to wear masks is extended to people who are incarcerated.

While the ADCRR recently announced it would require guards and prison staff to wear masks, it has not yet extended that protection to the 42,000 people in its custody.

“…razor wire doesn’t keep COVID behind the walls. It travels in and out of these facilities with the staff who work there.”

“We have already seen several prisons towns including Yuma and Eloy, become “hot spots” for high rates of infection,” said Rebecca Fealk, Program Coordinator with AFSC-AZ. “We know that razor wire doesn’t keep COVID behind the walls. It travels in and out of these facilities with the staff who work there, accompanying them on their errands to local businesses, and home to their families.”

The group notes that the Federal Bureau of Prisons allows incarcerated people to wear masks, and increasingly states are requiring them in their prisons, including Nebraska, New York, and Michigan.

“Incarceration has always been a public health issue,” said Fealk. “But the level of contagion and threat to life is exceptionally high with COVID. There is absolutely no downside to allowing people in prison to wear masks, with the best scenario being reduced infections in these high-risk environments.”

AFSC-AZ hopes that these local elected officials will agree and be willing to speak up to the Department of Corrections to make the mask mandates apply to people who are incarcerated.

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