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Advocates call on state to take further action to protect San Quentin inmates from COVID-19

California

SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (KRON) — After seeing more than 2,200 cases of COVID-19 which lead to 25 deaths, it appears the spread of the pandemic at San Quentin is slowing with only 32 new cases in the last 14 days. 

Still, advocates for inmates say too little is being done to prevent another surge.

“The department of correction is deliberately indifferent to the lives of those inside,” San Francisco Public Defender Danielle Harris said.

During an online news conference, inmates and their advocates spoke of little to no social distancing, poor ventilation, and little attention to keeping those with the virus apart for those who don’t have it.

“The cell is 4-foot by 10-foot and two people are in there,” San Quentin inmate Juan Moreno said. “And there are lots of ways to describe a cell with bars thats four by 10 and you have 800 people living in an unventilated space designed for 400 people.”

Inmate advocates have been calling on prison officials to cut the prison population. So far, 11,000 inmates have seen early release statewide, but San Quentin remains at just over 100% capacity.

“What concerns us not only is the outbreak at San Quentin far from over, but the state has done too little to address population or move the medically vulnerable to safety,” Michael Bien, an attorney representing inmates, said.

Prison officials are now reviewing whether to release 6,500 inmates who may medically vulnerable.  So far, only eight of those have been released.

Numerous lawsuits are currently in process to get the state to move faster but a spokesman for CDCR says it was their aggressive effort that led to the drop in cases at San Quentin. 

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