By Jaskiran Soomal
This report is written by the Covid In-Custody Project — an independent journalism project that partners with the Davis Vanguard to bring reporting on the pandemic in California’s county jails and Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to the public eye. Refer to our website to view and download the raw data.
Brian* was incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) in Tracy, but was recently transferred to Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) in Ione during a massive COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.
His wife shared his story and experiences with COVID-19 in an interview.
CDCR’s effort to control the spread of COVID-19 across its thirty-five prisons has been under the microscope since March. Outbreaks are an ongoing phenomenon in nearly all facilities where many are getting infected yet remain neglected by the administration.
Several incarcerated stories have suggested that staff are failing to follow protocols mandated by the California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS) to mitigate outbreaks.
Some CDCR facilities are receiving more attention and scrutiny for their outbreaks and negligence by staff than others. For instance, MCSP’s outbreaks have not received as much media coverage or public attention, as San Quentin’s has in the past.
Since Brian’s arrival in MCSP in November, the number of infections have multiplied exponentially. While only 30 positive cases were confirmed upon his arrival, this number grew to almost 500 positive cases as of Dec. 7.
Currently, MCSP has a total of 1,504 confirmed cases with 279 cases active in custody and 4 total deaths. MCSP is among the facilities with the highest infection rate across CDCR. Brian and his wife contend that relocations and transfers within the facility, and the lack of cleaning supplies are the primary cause of infections spreading.
Brian recalls seeing a fellow incarcerated person, who tested positive, being moved in and out of various buildings within the prison. He adds, “…this activity has occurred throughout several of the housing buildings.”
He also shares that cleaning supplies are not issued on a regular basis. The lack of cleaning supplies does not help with mitigating the spread of the virus, but rather encourages it. It also makes those who are medically high-risk more prone to contracting COVID-19.
With COVID-19 ravaging CDCR facilities, valuable programs for education and life skills have been halted to promote social distancing. While some programs continue to operate without group meetings, a majority have been shutdown. At MCSP, Brian says, “We’re mostly on lockdown and they aren’t doing much if any programming, like substance addiction treatment let alone any educational programming of any type.”
He also expresses, “…inmate phones aren’t being cleaned between calls and that [we’re] having to choose between phone calls and showering.” With in-person visitations being halted, phone calls are the only way incarcerated people can connect with their loved ones.
Further, Brian gets his medications twice a day, however, “…the person handing out the meds doesn’t change gloves between inmates.”
Reports from other CDCR facilities have suggested that the prison population is under lockdown 23 hours a day and folks only get 15 minutes for showers everyday.
Two other people on Brian’s block tested positive and are not permitted to go to the yard, yet they are being forced to choose between phone calls and showers.
He concludes saying that he has been keeping it together thankfully due to the supplies his wife has sent him.
* Name changed to protect identity