“It is incredibly frustrating that a person has made the decision to transfer a few patients from one prison, Chino, to San Quentin,” Newsom said Thursday at a press conference. “That decision created a chain of events that we are now addressing and dealing with. I am not here to sweeten that.”
The prison had escaped unscathed from the first months of the pandemic until cases began to skyrocket in late May after a transfer of detainees from the California Institution for Men in Chino.
Several advocates and lawmakers gathered outside San Quentin on Thursday, calling for the release of elderly and medically vulnerable detainees.
“California has not had an execution since 2006, but six people, as I understand it in the past few weeks, have been executed by Covid while on death row,” said Adnan Khan, executive director of Re: Store Justice, a group in defense of criminal justice reform. .
Authorities in California have been releasing prisoners who are close to finishing their sentences since March due to the pandemic. In San Quintín, more than 500 detainees have been released due to expedited and natural releases, according to the CDCR.
Inside the prison and jails, the pandemic could not feel more palpable as detainees were forced to live, work and eat indoors.
Correctional facilities across the country have become major hotspots for the virus in recent months, and San Quentin is only the latest.
Nearly 100 people have died in Texas facilities
Corrections officials are still trying to determine if an additional 26 deaths are related to the virus.
Unlike California and other states, Texas officials have not moved to release parole-eligible detainees or those nearing the end of their sentences in an effort to reduce the population and curb the spread of the virus, to despite calls from advocates and family members.
Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order in March to prevent the release of “dangerous criminals” from correctional facilities.
Coronavirus infections are more than 5 times higher in prisons.
The researchers said the disparity could be worse because massive testing in some prisons revealed large Covid-19 outbreaks “with infection rates above 65%,” but many facilities do not screen inmates or only screen symptomatic individuals.
The study analyzed cases and deaths from March 31 to June 6 using publicly available data from the departments of corrections websites, news reports and other sources. As of June 6, there were more than 42,100 cases of Covid-19 and 510 virus-related deaths among the nearly 1.3 million people incarcerated, the researchers said.
“We have been given flimsy paper masks,” says the detainee.
Families and advocates have been calling for better conditions at the Prince George’s County Jail in Maryland, and now actors Jesse Williams and Alec Baldwin, singer Fiona Apple, and several Broadway actors have joined them.
Scott Hechinger, a public defender and director of Zealous, a national initiative to support defenders and communities to move their defense out of court, said the pandemic has only caused conditions at correction facilities like Prince George be even more visceral.
“Just because there are no cameras inside doesn’t mean there is no injustice there,” Hechinger told CNN.
WHO says crowded places with inadequate ventilation may be at risk
Prisons and coast-to-coast prisons have struggled with poor ventilation for years and could now also put them at risk for Covid-19.
“Aerosol transmission” cannot be ruled out as a factor in reported outbreaks in restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship, as well as “crowded and inadequately ventilated places where infected people spend long periods of time with others,” said the WHO.
CNN’s Cheri Mossburg, Jacqueline Howard and Ben Tinker contributed to this report.