8 Weekly Highlights from CDCR’s COVID Crisis: CA Correctional Center to Fully Close By 2022

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By Julietta Bisharyan, Nick Gardner and Alexis Hogan

Weekly Highlights from CDCR’s COVID Crisis

Incarcerated Narrative

This segment previews reporting by inewsource.com. For the expanded report, click here 

Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD) was one of the few institutions able to weather the initial CDCR coronavirus outbreak in April 2020. The facility reported its first death in late December, but by the time CDCR’s cases had largely subsided in early February, the death toll at San Diego’s largest prison had shot to eighteen. Gilbert Rodriguez and Kenneth Sandlin were among those who passed away at RJD in late December. According to a recent report by inewssource.com, both men were found dead in their cells– victims of what some believe to be blatant neglect by prison medical staff. 

“There is no crime that heinous that it sentences you to die of a virus and to not get medical attention,” said Hadar Aviram, a UC Hastings College of Law professor who monitors developments in CDCR COVID-19 related litigation. “This punishment is not in the California penal code. Not even for people that are sentenced to death. This is not fair. This is not the way to treat other human beings.”

The cellmate of 66 year-old Rodriguez alleges that the medically at-risk father was refused specific medical attention. Despite spending the night of December 25 in a fit of coughing and testing positive for COVID-19, RJD’s medical personnel did not come to his aid. He was discovered dead the next day.

According to medical records, Rodriguez suffered from diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which, along with his age, placed him at a heightened risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19.

Rodriguez’s dying wish, as recorded by his cellmate, was to inform his two son’s of the failure of RJD’s medical response.

One of Rodriguez’s sons, Ryan, recently received and email from the Medical Examiner’s office assuring him that his father’s medical condition had been closely monitored on a daily basis. But the report provided little closure to Rodriguez, whose inquiries into whether or not his father was seen by a doctor, given any medications, or put on a ventilator as he neared his final moments went unanswered by prison officials.

“I would expect anybody with underlying conditions getting COVID [to] be monitored and tracked at some level, not just left in a cell and say, ‘Good luck.’”

CDCR Confirmed COVID-19 Cases and Outcomes

As of Apr. 17, there have been a total of 49,214 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 14 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 14 cases are active in custody while 611 have been released while active. A total of 48,368 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic.

There have been 221 deaths across the CDCR system. The death of an incarcerated person at Correctional Training Facility on Dec. 28, 2020, has since been determined to be from complications associated with COVID-19.

CDCR officials have withheld their identity, citing medical privacy issues. 

There are currently 95,384 incarcerated persons in California’s prisons – a reduction of 27,557 since March 2020, when the prison outbreaks first began.

Vaccinations

As of Apr. 17, 18,307 patients have received their first round of vaccines statewide. 47,985 are fully vaccinated. 69 percent of the total prison population is either partially or fully vaccinated.

2,151 staff members have received their first round of vaccines statewide. 25,611 staff are fully vaccinated. 42 percent of the total staff population is either partially or fully vaccinated.

Effect on Public

On April 13, the CDCR announced that the California Correctional Center (CCC) in Susanville will be closing by June 30, 2022. 

CCC is the second prison to be closed in the coming year— Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy is expected to shut down by September of this year. The last time a CDCR prison closed was the Northern California Women’s Facility in 2003. Gov. Newsom’s 2020-21 Budget included the closure of two state prisons. 

“The significant decrease in the state’s incarcerated population over the past year is allowing CDCR to move forward with these prison closures in a thoughtful manner that does not impact public safety, and that focuses on the successful reentry of people into communities once they release from our custody,” said Kathleen Allison, CDCR Secretary.

CCC was built in 1963 and currently houses about 2064 people and employs about 1080 staff. The incarcerated population will be transferred to other facilities, however, there will be no expedited releases due to the closures. 

Due to population reduction, CDCR also announced the partial closures of California Correctional Institution (CCI) in Tehachapi and Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in Soledad by June 30, 2022.

The closure of CCC is expected to save about $122 million annually,  and partial closures of CCI and CTF are expected to save an additional $45 million annually. 

CDCR Staff

There have been at least 16,234 cases of COVID-19 reported among prison staff. 26 staff members have died while 16,068 have returned to work. 166 cases are still active.

CDCR Comparisons – California and the US

According to the Marshall Project, California prisons rank second in the country for the highest number of confirmed cases, following Federal prisons closely behind. Texas ranks third. 

2 in 5 incarcerated individuals have tested positive–– 4.5 times the rate in California overall. 1 in 535 patients has died from COVID-19.

California makes up 12.4 percent of total cases among incarcerated people and 8.6 percent of the total deaths in prison.

California also makes up 14.8 percent of total cases and 13 percent of total deaths among prison staff.

Division of Juvenile Justice

As of Apr. 10, there are no active cases of COVID-19 among youth at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities. 204 cases have been resolved since the first case was diagnosed in June.

A Year Ago Today

Last year, on Apr. 17, 2020, there were a total of 122 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across CDCR. 

At that time, California had 29,047 cases within the state. As of today, California has had a total of 3.66 million cases.

A year ago, CDCR announced a reduction in the prison population of 6,758 incarcerated individuals. A mandate for cloth face coverings was instated for institutional staff and the incarcerated population.

Last year, Gov. Newsom signed an executive order that addressed the release and reentry process at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) so that eligible youth serving time at DJJ may be discharged safely and expeditiously in response to the pandemic.

References: 

https://www.sfchronicle.com/local/article/Second-California-prison-to-close-due-to-16100789.php

https://inewsource.org/2021/04/08/donovan-deaths-3-prisoners-found-dead-or-dying-in-cells-from-covid-19/

https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/insidecdcr/2021/04/14/cdcr-to-deactivate-california-correctional-center-in-susanville/

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About The Author

Aparna Komarla leads the Covid In-Custody project, which partners with the Davis Vanguard to bring reporting on the pandemic's impact on county jails and CDCR to the public eye. See www.covidincustody.org for more information.

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