Saguaro Correctional Facility photo by civilbeat.org (copy)

Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona is part of a contract to house overflow Idaho inmates.

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Looking back, Trevor Booth, 35, of Caldwell, can tell there was a coronavirus outbreak at Eagle Pass Correctional Facility in Eagle Pass, Texas, in September. He didn’t know it at the time though, writes Idaho Press reporter Tommy Simmons. He was among the Idahoans bedridden as a result of what they would later learn was COVID-19. At the time he just thought he was sick, he told the Idaho Press. Disease can spread easily in prisons, and illness had swept through Eagle Pass Correctional Facility before, he said.

He didn’t know he had COVID-19 because the prison staff didn’t make a concerted effort to test the men imprisoned there. For much of 2020, there were about 600 Idaho inmates in the prison. The staff tested only 33 of them, and 21 tested negative.

Booth wasn’t tested for COVID-19 until the Idaho inmates arrived in Saguaro, about 65 miles northeast of Phoenix, as part of a transfer of Idaho's out-of-state inmates to another private prison operated by a different firm. All were tested when they arrived and more than 100 had COVID. You can read Simmons' full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up today's print edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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