Outbreaks of COVID-19 have flared up at two large California Prisons. This is a great concern for prisoner families and advocates.
There have reportedly been 44 prisoners and 21 staffers that have tested positive for the coronavirus at the California Institution for Men in Chino, while 15 prisoners and 11 employees have been infected at the state prison in Los Angeles County, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
These numbers have doubled since last week when there were only eight confirmed cases in each facility. Five other prisons in California purportedly house a single prisoner who has tested positive: Centinela State Prison in Imperial; California Institution for Women in Corona; the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo; North Kern State Prison in Delano, and the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran.
In total, there are reportedly 64 prisoners who have tested positive within the system and 581 have been tested. There are approximately 120,000 prisoners at the 35 institutions statewide. Thus it is likely there are many more cases of COVID-19 that have not yet been identified or publicized.
Staffers at San Quentin State Prison, California Health Care Facility in Stockton and the Stockton juvenile facility have tested positive for the virus. Including staffers, there are reportedly 78 reported cases of those who have tested positive for coronavirus.
A 73-year-old prisoner, Jane Dorotik said in an email that “everyone is squeezed tight in the housing unit” making it “physically impossible” to maintain 6 feet of physical distance as health officials recommend. Some women at the facility in Corona have become so worried that they are making their own face masks out of scrap material. Prison officials have finally started handing out masks to prisoners within the last week. Yet, this measure is not close to being enough to achieve the physical distancing needed to prevent the spread of the infection.
Many prisoners are “sitting ducks”, waiting to be eventually taken out by this terrible virus. The only solution to save lives behind bars is to release as many of the prisoners as possible. It is a violation of the prohibition against Cruel and Unusual Punishment under the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution to maintain any prisoner in custody under there circumstances.
The state has begun releasing those that were to be released within two months of completing their sentence and the prison population has decreased by 6,758 people since March 25. The state and the CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) have a long way to go to make this right. It is important to release as many prisoners as possible right now. If you or someone you know has a loved one or friend in jail or prison and you are seeking to get them released on home confinement or some other alternative to incarceration, please contact me at 800-499-9902 for immediate assistance.