San Quentin, California. – In a sunny Wednesday at the San Quentin State Jail, a handful of people gathered outside the gates to await the release of their family members. A white van arrived, and two elderly men dressed in masks and carrying small bags of belongings walked into the waiting group.
Here, too, the evidence for coronovirus epidemics was clear. A man hesitated before hugging the woman waiting for him, and held her hand before sitting in a parked car for a few minutes.
Frank Richardson, who emerged later in the day, hugged his wife and two sons after spending nearly four years in prison, but said he would consider keeping his distance. “I’ve tested negative for some time, but I’m struggling with it,” he said. “We’ll definitely talk on the way home.”
According to California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, thousands of unaccompanied people have tested positive for an outbreak of coronovirus and 19 have died. Like Richardson, about 18 percent of the prison population was released early to limit the spread. Family members told NBC News that after testing positive, those who remain undeterred have lost their privileges with loved ones, confined to bathing only once a week and held in solitary confinement .
Lisa Zinnamon Noel said that Stephen Rushhid Zinmon, his brother, who is soon set for parole in San Quentin, tested positive for the virus in early June and had at least one in solitary confinement, or “hole,” Stay for months.
Full coverage of coronavirus outbreaks
“He originally described it as a living hell,” she said of California’s oldest prison conditions during the epidemic. “And no word from the prison system when he can retire or what the protocol is for reintroducing them to the general population. Because you just can’t keep them there indefinitely.”
She said that she is hard to understand when she calls, shouting in the background, which she takes as a sign of congestion and her inability to socially distance herself from others in that part of the prison. “I believe they only bathe once a week,” she said. “He does not get any yard time. He is not able to work.”
In a statement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation stated that “Since the coronavirus epidemic hit our community, the department has worked tirelessly to implement measures to protect employees, deteriorating populations and the community at large . ” However, it had to postpone recreational yard time and phone calls, the department wrote, had been restored to limited access until 24 July.
“There are currently 526 people who are actively positive with COVID-19,” the department wrote, calling it a significant drop from earlier numbers, “to more than 1,500 individuals Has been identified as ‘recovered’. “
Department of Corrections spokesperson Daroga said that San Quentin has also renovated many of its areas as treatment facilities, including a chapel and a furniture-manufacturing shop, and has provided rooms for treating 164 patients. With an air-conditioned outdoor tent installed. He said San Quentin is providing personal protective equipment, including cloth masks, to people imprisoned there and offering coronovirus testing every seven days that have previously tested negative or that have refused testing in the past.
The department wrote in a statement on its site, “People who are housed in segregated housing due to COVID-19 are not being sent for punitive reasons.” “They are relocated to prevent further spread of the Kovid-19 virus to the affected unit.”
The initial lack of screening contributed to the outbreak. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in June that the Department of Corrections had not tested nearly 200 inmates before being transferred from the Men’s Institute in San Quintin and other prisons in Chino.
Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronovirus outbreakK
Several arrivals in San Quentin were subsequently tested positively, and as of Wednesday, the department’s official count confirmed at least 2,168 past and current cases among people in prison, as well as at least 254 There were also staff members. On Sunday, Johnny Avila Jr. became the 19th man in San Quentin to die of the disease. Avila, who was awarded death sentence in 1996, was 62 years old.
Avila, like any prisoner, also had fundamental rights to health care and due process, on death row, said Adnan Khan, who spent the last four of his 16 years behind bars in San Quentin before his release in 2019. Had served for years. Khan Ray: Store Justice, a California nonprofit officer who helps people released from prison, was imprisoned.
“I was sentenced to more than 25 years in prison,” he said. “But I was not sentenced to die for COVID.” Khan said chronic overcrowding and extremely lengthy sentences in California prisons are responsible for the crisis. “The reason we have a COVID-in-prison problem is that we have a massive harassment problem.”
NBC News is not reporting men’s crimes because they have no bearing on their right to adequate health care.
Richardson said that in his unit, about 80 men sleep in a bunk divided by low brick walls and breathe the same air in the same room. He said he and those living with him had been wearing masks continuously since April, but those wearing masks by correctional officers were inconsistent until recently.
“They wear them on their mouths, not on their noses. Some of them are just around their throats. I’ve seen them in the yard without them,” Richardson said. He described trying to convince a guard to wear a mask. “He goes, ‘Don’t worry about me, friend, worry about yourself.” And I like ‘I’m worried about myself.’
In a June memo, the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health and Amend, a program at the University of California, San Francisco that attempted to change US prison policy based on the European model, called a “full-blown pandemic” Had predicted. And the health care crisis in the prison and surrounding communities “and gave detailed recommendations to prison officials, including reducing the spread of the virus to at least 50 percent of the degraded population.”
The problem is not limited to San Quentin, nor to California facilities.
As of July 21, at least 70,717 jailed people in the US had tested positive for coronavirus, according to research by The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers criminal justice, and the disease has caused fewer Have killed at least 713 people. He has limited knowledge about his imprisoned relatives.
Jacques Wilson, a public guard in San Francisco, has a brother in federal custody in Terminal Island in Los Angeles and another is detained at the Navajo County Jail in Arizona. Wilson’s brother Lance tested positive for COVID-19 at Terminal Island, a federal facility, but the prison has largely cut off contact with his family, Wilson said.
He said that he learned his brother’s position by letter. And in a Video Published on Twitter inside the Arizona facility, his brother Neko complained about leaking toilets, no masks and unsafe conditions. “It’s incredibly disappointing,” Wilson said.
Richardson said he worries about the people leaving San Quentin behind. He said before sitting in the car with his family, “It’s good to see that they’re letting people out. There are a lot of good people out there who made a mistake.” “I feel sorry for those people, because they are in a big incubation box.”