The only Texas prison reporting zero coronavirus cases is where inmates make soap. But that’s not what’s credited with protecting it.

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The Texas prison soap factory was at the now-closed Central Unit before it was moved to Roach in 2011. Justin Dehn/The Texas Tribune

The only Texas prison that hasn’t had any staff or inmates test positive for the new coronavirus is the same one where inmates make soap and package hand sanitizer for the state’s lockups. Prisoners aren’t allowed to use the latter.

How this one unit seemingly remains untouched by a virus that has ravaged the state’s prison system, however, has been credited not to its soap factory, but to the prison’s location and the warden’s strict enforcement of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s coronavirus policy. Meanwhile, those inside prisons with hundreds of infected inmates have long reported dangerous practices. In lawsuits and letters, they have described officers without face masks, forced intermingling between infected and healthy prisoners, and limits to soap and cleaning supplies.

Texas leads the nation in prison deaths connected to the coronavirus, with a higher death toll than the federal lockups or any other state prison system. At least 112 Texas prisoners and 16 people who worked in prison units have died with the virus.