Arizona Correctional Officers Say They Are Not Allowed To Wear Personal Protective Equipment At Work

By Jimmy Jenkins, Steve Goldstein
Published: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 5:25pm
Updated: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 - 3:00pm

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Arizona correctional officers say they are not allowed to wear protective masks at work despite growing fears of the coronavirus potentially entering state prisons.

On Tuesday, an attorney for a correctional officers union wrote to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ submitting a whistleblower complaint from one of its members.

The complaint states staff members are not being given personal protective equipment and they are forbidden by the director to bring their own to work.

Carlos Garcia is the executive director of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association. He says officers are telling him their superiors are not allowing them to wear masks because it would scare the inmates and create a panic in the prisons.

Garcia says correctional officers should be allowed to wear masks to help protect the staff and inmates.

“Because of the close proximity and because right now, unseasonably, we have a lot of sick inmates with flu-like symptoms that match the coronavirus, including our staff,” Garcia said.

Garcia says he does not believe the Department of Corrections is testing enough staff or inmates for the coronavirus.

He says if no good-faith efforts are made to protect prison employees, Garcia fears the already understaffed correctional officers will stop showing up for work.

“People are going to walk out,” Garcia said. “I’m not just saying that. This is what people are telling me. They’re just waiting to see if they’re going to get masks and the supplies they need to protect themselves. And if the administration doesn’t step up, people will just stay at home.”

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