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Prison Rights Advocates Call On State To Stop Spread Of COVID-19

"San Quentin State Prison" by Zboralski. Used under CC BY-SA 3.0. http://bit.ly/2fxIh2g


Last month, over a hundred people were transferred from a San Bernardino County prison — a known COVID-19 hotspot — to San Quentin State Prison. Now, over two weeks later, there’s at least 30 confirmed cases of the virus at San Quentin, only about half of which were transfers.


People incarcerated there are worried that the virus is spreading. They have the support of two human rights groups:the Ella Baker Center in Oakland and the California advocacy group Re:Store Justice. Today, they’re engaging in a virtual day of action. 


Advocates say that social distancing is impossible in prisons. Kerry Rudd—who’s currently housed at San Quentin—is critical of the way that prison staff and corrections officers have handled the outbreak. 


“I’ve benefited from so many amazing programs here, but when it comes to this pandemic, they have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. They don’t specialize in infectious diseases.”


Rudd and other advocates are urging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reduce the overall prison population. Their main demand is that the CDCR and Governor Newsom grant releases to incarcerated people. They’re also calling for more preventative measures — like the stoppage of prison transfers, more COVID testing, and free hygiene supplies. 


In a statement, the CDCR said safety is their top priority. The department has already granted early release to over three thousand people and says they are providing hand sanitizer and masks to all staff and the incarcerated population.


Noor Bouzidi is an intern with KALW. Her reporting interests are housing insecurity, immigration, economy, and all issues around systemic poverty in California.