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As of Thursday, only about 21% of the prison population had received a test. 

The Arizona Department of Corrections announced Tuesday night that more than 500 inmates in one Tucson prison unit have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The 517 inmates infected make up nearly half of the 1,066-person Whetstone unit and are now being housed together until they are medically cleared to return to the rest of the group. 

Outside of that unit, 228 other inmates in the Tucson prison have tested positive, with 10 still pending. 


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So far, 1,429 inmates in the state out of the total 8,411 tested have received a positive result, with 229 pending. The total prison population is 39,211 inmates. 

Seven inmates have died from the disease, while 14 deaths are being investigated to see if COVID-19 was the cause. 

Hundreds of staff members have also been hit with the virus––so far, 599 have self-reported positive COVID-19 test results. 


Corrections Policies


The Arizona Department of Corrections said the latest Tucson results came from its effort to test the entire Arizona inmate population. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the agency for releasing the bombshell number at the same time polls were closing in the state’s primary election Tuesday.

“@AZCorrections tried to avoid accountability by releasing this horrific news just as election night results hit. Don’t let it go unnoticed,” the organization said in a tweet. “Nearly half of the people in a Tucson prison unit have been infected with COVID-19. Contact Gov. Ducey NOW.”

The ACLU has been one of many voices calling for more safety precautions and even the release of certain inmates to keep prisoners safe from the pandemic. 


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Although the corrections department has said it “has taken significant actions” to mitigate the risk of the disease, inmates have raised concerns about unsanitary conditions and a lack of access to protective gear and tests. 

As of Thursday, only about 21% of the prison population had received a test. 

Inmates were provided with fabric face coverings July 2, according to the agency. Staff have been required to wear face coverings since June 15. 

The disease has been a problem in not just prisons, but other group settings like jails and detention centers.

So far, a total of 41 of these places have reported at least one confirmed case of COVID-19.