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IDOC begins mass testing of inmates after 3 test positive for COVID-19 at prison south of Boise

IDOC locked down ISCC, limiting how many times the men can leave their cells. Family members want the inmates to get more access to showers and sanitation supplies.

BOISE, Idaho — Hundreds of inmates have been tested at the Idaho State Correctional Center south of Boise since three inmates there tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

The Idaho Department of Correction was able to deploy the tests through a partnership with the US Department of Veterans Affairs 

Starting on Monday, IDOC began testing all 258 inmates inside the E block at ISCC.

While they're working on that, family members of the men housed inside the prison want to see other things done differently.

"They went more than five days without a shower, every meal they've been served has been ice cold, they're not getting the proper stuff to sanitize their units,” said Kristal Pulley, whose husband is an inmate in the E block.

He was one of the men who was tested on Monday morning.

“My husband is like 'this virus is deadly, I'm afraid I came in for something little and I'm never going to make it home because I'm going to get sick and they're not giving us proper care,'” Pulley said.

The prison is on lockdown while inmates are being tested, a spokesperson told KTVB, and that includes limiting how many men can be out of their cells at one time.

It also means inmates are not getting daily showers, something that family members are concerned about.

“How can they expect them to stay healthy if they're not giving them one, the tools to practice good hygiene, and two, to sanitize their room and hand sanitizer,” Pulley said.

One inmate’s grandmother echoed that sentiment.

“I would like to see more of the showers, they need to take a shower,” said Carrol Ebbling, whose grandson is also housed in the E block at ISCC. “He told me that he was about seven cells down from where the infected person was."

RELATED: Idaho coronavirus updates: 2 more days of 200+ cases, over 5,200 confirmed cases so far

IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray told KTVB that the lockdown was unavoidable once inmates started testing positive for COVID-19. He added that inmates in the affected block should be able to shower every 72 hours.

“We know a lockdown for a housing unit is no fun for anyone involved,” Ray said in an email. “But given what’s at stake, it’s a necessary measure. We are acting in accordance with our long-standing infectious disease control protocol."

Prison officials said they are helping the men pass time by providing them with newly released movies, board games, and cards. IDOC is also allowing inmates who’ve lost property due to sanctions for disciplinary action to use JPay, an email system that can be used to stay in touch with family members.

Ray told KTVB on Friday that Idaho was one of only three states to not report any confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates in a state-run correctional facility until their first case last week.

“We have learned many lessons from our colleagues across the country,” he said in an email. “Based on the experience of the 47 states that have gone before us, we acknowledge this will likely be a long road.”

While Idaho was one of the last states to report a confirmed case inside a state-run correctional facility, family members think IDOC wasn’t prepared for it.

“It seems to me that they do not have a plan in place, and they are scrambling,” Ebbling said.

In addition to the three inmates, nine workers at ISCC have also tested positive for COVID-19. 

The test results for the 250-plus inmates are expected to come in on Wednesday. More mass testing will be happening in the coming weeks, according to IDOC.

RELATED: Idaho House, Senate Republicans form COVID-19 working groups to combat 'overreach'

RELATED: 2 of Gov. Little's staff members test positive for COVID-19

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