With one exception, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry is pulling back all inmate crews that work offsite until national and local public health experts consider the COVID-19 novel coronavirus no longer a threat, the department announced Wednesday, March 25.
A 140-member female work crew from Perryville Prison assigned to Buckeye-based Hickman’s Family Farms will temporarily be housed onsite, away from the prison, ADCRR officials stated in a release.
Hickman’s Family Farms, which supplies eggs for Arizona communities, is deemed an essential operation under current COVID-19 orders. ADCRR work crews have worked at the farm for 25 years via a partnership that provides job skills for inmates, the release stated.
The inmates, classified as “medium custody,” represent a low risk to the public and staff and have been working daily at the farm under ADCRR and Hickman’s supervision, officials stated.
“Many of these women inmates perform critical tasks related to the raising of baby chicks. Besides daily care, they also perform most of the tasks of vaccination,” Hickman’s President Glenn Hickman stated. “Their proper care today ensures an uninterrupted food supply tomorrow. It has been our family’s privilege to help thousands of inmates learn life skills that keep them productive members of society, well after they leave this program.”
Officials said the work crew will be closely monitored and supervised by correctional officers and Hickman’s at all times. They will be housed in one location, with all necessary accommodations and security measures. Once the declared COVID-19 emergency has passed, the inmates will return to their housing location at Perryville.
“Our Department is focused on ensuring the health and safety of all inmates, officers and staff,” ADCRR Director David Shinn said. “The decision to temporarily house inmates at Hickman’s is necessary to ensure a stable food supply while also protecting public health and the health of those in our custody.”
ADCRR officials stated it has no known confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus as of Wednesday.
“Six inmates have been tested for the virus and results are pending. We continue to take proactive measures to protect our staff and inmates against any potential spread within the prisons, which includes reducing and suspending work crews that work outside the prison complexes,” they stated.