COVID-19 Deaths and the California Department of Prisons

COVID-19 Deaths and the California Department of Prisons

There are 168,336 men and women in the custody of the California Department of Corrections as of last week. That doesn’t count the county jails and federal correctional centers. Los Angles County Sheriff’s Department alone is responsible for an additional 18,000 inmates and 18,000 staff members.

Unlike you and I who have our freedoms, these people can’t leave. They rely on prison staff to keep them healthy and protected from the Chinese coronavirus. But are they truly protected and who is protecting the staff? Certainly not the state of California. A single corrections officer with COVID can infect dozens of people.

An inmate at the Mule Creek State Prison tells us that many staff members have no PPE. Although inmates that test positive for coronavirus are segregated from those who appear fine, there is no real testing meaning no one knows who may be an asymptomatic carrier. And staff members travel freely between the sick and presumed healthy inmates.

An inmate at the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail says inmates showing symptoms of COVID-19 are not being quarantined.

When an outbreak raced through the California Institute of Men in Chino, what did the state do? It transferred 121 prisoners from Chino to San Quentin. The prison in San Quentin that had largely avoided the pandemic suddenly had 2,159 cases and many deaths. Those numbers were reported in late July and have increased since then.

Researchers saw the handwriting on the wall and offered free screenings. California refused the offer.

By now we have all heard the experts tell us that in order to stop the spread of the disease, everyone should engage in frequent handwashing and maintain good hygiene. Tell that to the prison in Chino. The Sacramento Bee reports that after the outbreak started, an inmate went 42 days without a shower and that wasn’t by choice!

As of August 6th, the California DOC reports that 1,315 inmates have active cases of coronavirus. 1,038 state correctional employees have also tested positive. 8 employees have died but no such statistics are available for inmate deaths. (CNBC reports the actual number of positive cases in California prisons is 12,000!)

We never expected California to have zero cases. That is isn’t realistic. But no PPE, no testing, no quarantine plan, inadequate medical staff and multiple instances of cross – contamination is not acceptable.

Lawsuits have been filed by civil rights groups to force the state to better protect inmates but what about the dozens of inmates who have already lost their lives. The state’s response to the lawsuit? A press release saying they are “working tirelessly” to address the problem.

There doesn’t even appear to be a plan to fix things, even after the filing of lawsuits. Visit the DOC’s coronavirus response page and you won’t find a plan, only platitudes.

What is California’s COVID-19 plan?

“We take these decisions very seriously and continue to work with our law enforcement, public health, and community-based partners to address their concerns and work through this public health emergency together.

“Executives and staff at [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] are working closely with infectious disease control experts to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our operations. To ensure we are ready to immediately respond to any COVID-19 related incident, CDCR/CCHCS activated the Department Operations Center in order to be fully prepared to respond to any departmental impacts resulting from COVID-19. The [Center] is a central location where CDCR/CCHCS experts monitor information, prepare for known and unknown events, and exchange information centrally in order to make decisions and provide guidance quickly. We will continue to ensure inmate safety and security, and the continuation of access to medical, dental, and mental health services for the incarcerated population.”

Not much of a plan. It’s all promises and little action. How many inmates (staff and guards too) must die before the state takes real action?

Sadly, our prison population and the people who work in the prisons have been largely forgotten by society.

Help for Inmates Who Died from Coronavirus

If you entered a jail or prison and already had coronavirus, there isn’t much we can do. Not unless the facility failed to provide adequate medical intervention. Although we haven’t seen the statistics, we believe that most inmates who contracted coronavirus received it while in jail. Those cases were largely preventable and inexcusable.

Without a true infection control plan, personal protective equipment, testing and cleaning protocols, we believe the State of California is responsible for those inmates who died while in custody. They are also responsible to their families.

Our jail death and injury lawyers are currently investigating claims by inmates who contracted coronavirus while in jail and subsequently died or suffered permanent injuries.

For more information, please visit our jail medical neglect information page. Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online or by email at [hidden email].

Although we try and answer every call, we are often overwhelmed and simply can’t keep up. For that reason, we prefer emails or online contact forms. Please note that we limit our practice to wrongful death, very serious injury cases, inmate miscarriages and sexual assaults by prison staff. We are not a civil rights firm and cannot assist you get treatment or force prison administrators to better protect inmates. For that, see a civil rights lawyer or contact the ACLU.

*About Attorney Brian Mahany. Brian is former corrections officer. He uses his training and experience to cut through bureaucratic bs and government coverups.

We do not believe that all corrections officers are bad people. We do not hesitate, however, to vigorously prosecute cases where officers and medical staff use excessive force or fail to provide adequate care. Everyone has a right to expect quality care, respect and dignity.

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