Death row prisoner dies with COVID-19 in the middle of the San Quintín outbreak

With about a third of San Quentin inmates now infected with the coronavirus after a prisoner transfer from a Southern California correctional facility overrun with the disease, Marin County officials revealed Monday that an inmate sentenced to death found dead last week in his cell tested positive for COVID -19.

Richard Stitely’s death was the first in California’s oldest and most notorious prison, where 1,059 inmates and 102 correctional and medical personnel have tested positive for the virus.

The Marin County Jail has surpassed the California Institution for Men in Chino as the most infected prison in the state.

Marin County hospitals have been inundated with intensive care patients from the prison, which houses some 3,500 inmates, including all men on California’s death row. On Monday, 22 inmates were being treated at county hospitals, authorities said.

In a letter sent to the state Monday, Marin County Board of Supervisors chair Kate Rice called for “building capacity in place to manage the care of sick inmates with COVID-19 and establishing a Incident Commander at the facility with outbreak management. ” expertise.”

Governor Gavin Newsom said the state was developing a plan that included “using Seton Hospital, one of our alternative care centers” in Daly City to treat inmates.

“San Quentin: So that’s our area of ​​focus and concern right now,” Newsom said.

The governor also said he is working to free 3,500 additional inmates in state jails after a similar move at the start of the coronavirus crisis.

“We are working with many advocates in court and others,” Newsom said, noting that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is “analyzing the medical conditions of our prisoners, the most vulnerable.”

He said the state wants to make sure that all inmates have places to go before they are released.

Unlike other prisons in California, San Quentin had escaped any coronavirus outbreak until early June. But 121 inmates were transferred there from the Chino prison on May 30.

The California Institution for Men, an early coronavirus case center in the state prison system, reported the deaths of 16 inmates. Statewide, 22 inmates have died from virus-related illnesses and more than 4,800 have tested positive.

Chinese inmates who failed to test positive and are medically vulnerable were transferred to other prisons, including San Quentin and Corcoran. The transfers caused outbreaks in both jails, and a federal judge called the moves a significant failure.

Stitely had been sentenced to death in San Quentin for nearly three decades since he was sentenced for the 1990 rape and murder of Carol Unger, 47, who was last seen leaving a Reseda bar with him.

He was one of 725 death row inmates housed in the Bay Area prison. Of these, almost 200 have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Stitely’s official cause of death is still pending further investigation, according to Marin County Sheriff-Coroner officials.

Newsom acknowledged on Monday the role transfers have played in the San Quentin outbreak.

“It seems and seems to be the case. Again, we are still wrapping up the full investigation, so I want to have that as a warning before people run with him, “the governor said.

A similar transfer of inmates from San Quentin to a Kern County prison was delayed last week after some inmates tested positive. Before the May 30 transfer to the California Men’s Institution in Chino, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation had halted movement of all inmates for months, limiting most outbreaks to some of its 35 jails.

As of Monday, 2,526 inmates in San Quentin had been screened for the coronavirus, according to data from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. According to state authorities, around two-fifths of inmates consider themselves vulnerable.

“We are closely monitoring and responding quickly to positive COVID-19 cases in state jails, including in San Quentin,” Corrections spokeswoman Dana Simas said in a statement. “In addition, we are working closely with the court-appointed Federal Receiver on housing and treatment, as well as with public health agencies and stakeholders for the safety of our inmates, staff, and communities.”

Prison officials on Monday set up tents in the outer courtyards as part of an effort to socially distance some of the inmates. A similar move was made at the California Institution for Men in May.

Newsom said it was working to free 3,500 other inmates as the state did at the start of the coronavirus crisis. “We are working with many advocates in court and others. We have identified an additional cohort of more than 3,500 additional prisoners working through a similar process, “Newsom said, adding that the corrections were” to observe the medical conditions of our prisoners, the most vulnerable. “He said the state wants to ensure All those released inmates have places to go.

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