COVID-19 Prison Updates

Washington Prisoner Updates 4-12-2020

submitted by Puget Sound Prisoner Support

Well, a lot has happened in the last few days. And the updates are moving both slower and faster than usual.

As many of you may have heard there was what some people inside have referred to as a “sit down” protest in Monroe. According to news reports, CO’s attempted to bring people from quarantine into general population and prisoners confronted guards and refused to comply with orders. According to the Seattle Times and other media outlets “a couple hundred inmates concerned about the facility’s COVID-19 outbreak threatened to set fires and possibly take corrections officers hostage.” This is all under the back drop of the DOC both misleading and lying to prisoners about the number of people and guards currently infected by Covid-19 in the facility.

Eventually, the situation was diffused but 18 people were placed in segregation cells pending further investigation. We hope to get word on who these people are and if in fact they will be facing charges or infractions from the event.

This was one of the first large scale situations, outside of a hunger strike or work stoppage, that we saw in US prisons in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many more followed in its wake, nearly simultaneously, prompting a bunch of different initiatives as well as growing and bolstering the long term demonstrations and solidarity vigils that the families of those incarcerated in Monroe have been doing.

Monroe Correctional Facility includes 5 campuses or units, each with different designations and intentions. Washington State Reformatory(WSR) is the largest unit and has both the hospital and a Maximum Security floor, though this unit is classified as medium. Twin Rivers Unit (TRU) is a mixed security facility. Minimum Security Unit(MSU) has a program where people suffering mental health issues (according to the State) are allowed to transfer from there to a minimum security unit–this is the only program in the state like this. Generally people with mental health issues are housed in the Special Offender Unit (SOU). The final unit is the Intensive Management Unit(IMU) which houses probation violators and the IMS, a super-max space for people the prison considers to be “incredibly dangerous or violent”.

The protest that happened in Monroe last week was in the MSU unit, and many people in other units were put on lock-down but were unable to participate directly. Hopefully this gives a little more background on the way Monroe is run, we assume that it will be a site of continual conflict in the near future.

*DOC by the numbers…(Current as of April 10th)
Staff/Guards Testing Positive for Covid-19
2 at Community Corrections Section 6 (up one from last time)
2 at Peninsula Work Release
2 at Washington Corrections Center
5 at Monroe Correctional Complex (up 3 from last time)
1 at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center
1 at Airway Heights Correctional Center (New for this update)
1 at “Headquarters”

Prisoners Testing Positive for Covid-19
7 at Monroe Correctional Complex (Up 6 since last time)
1 at Community Medical Center

*We got an update from Monroe WSR on April 10th that staffers from the Governor’s office, the Director of the Office of Correctional Ombudsman, and other officials actually visited the facility. Our contact said they feel like the visit went well-and that some of the changes are going to open up more 1-person cells in the unit. Starting today, staff are required to wear PPE (face masks) while at work. There have still been no masks distributed to prisoners.

*Our other most consistent updates come from our friend in Airway Heights. He has been keeping solid watch on the quarantine cells near his unit. Last week the prison started using a color coded system for the cells. “Red means isolation/wear all PPE when dealing with inmate. Yellow means quarantine caution/certain equipment required.” So far, several people have left the quarantine to claps and cheers from fellow prisoners but he has not seen anyone come off the Red Card status-but he said it’s possible they are getting downgraded back to yellow. At least one office in his unit has been gutted and disinfected for use as a forward medical bay. On April 8th, they started issuing masks to all prisoners with their name and number written on the outside-which implies to us that these are one-time use masks being used much more than once and without the possibility of sanitation.

*In “Juvenile Rehabilitation” news, another person at a facility in Everett has tested positive. A thing that we are noticing from checking this site daily is that the information posted publicly comes many days after they are saying that people test positive. This lag time between test results and public posting implies that many cases are simply being unreported or have not been reported yet.
4/6/2020 Everett: 1 Case
3/30/2020 Yakima: 1 Case
3/23/2020 Green Hill JR: 1 case

You can contact the Department of Children, Youth and Families about your concerns around COVID-19, especially if your family or friends are being held by them at this email address [email protected]. The site says the email is monitored daily.

*Here is the blog of a long-term Washington prisoner and her struggles through the system. Her most recent posts are about the COVID-19 outbreak and dealing with it on a personal and societal level.

*Keep checking back to the COVID-19 Mutual Aid Instagram for more updates on actions and words from people inside.

*PSPS has continued our bi-monthly letter writing nights online until gathering in person is safe again.