By Yasmeen Khan
The Covid In-Custody Project partners with the Davis Vanguard to bring quantitative and qualitative reporting on the pandemic’s impact on county jails and CDCR to the public eye. Read our bi-weekly update on CDCR’s COVID-19 crisis below. Visit our website to view and download raw data on cases, testing, releases and vaccinations.
In mid-august, San Quentin reported a new COVID-19 outbreak after four incarcerated men in a cell block tested positive, of which three are infected for the second time.
In response to the recent outbreak, San Quentin said it will no longer be accepting incoming transfers and has cancelled visitations and work assignments (except for critical workers).
However, San Quentin resident Joe Garcia points out that “officers and staff have been moving freely throughout the prison, working in multiple cell blocks while swapping and picking up shifts,” in his article published by the Prison Journalism Project. “CDCR has continued to allow the transfer of prisoners into San Quentin,” he says.
Leonard Brown, another resident, said he witnessed approximately 20 new arrivals step off a green prison bus on Aug. 18 and line up outside the prison’s Receiving and Release (R&R) area, the department that processes all prisoners entering or leaving the prison.
San Quentin’s residents are increasingly frustrated with the ongoing outbreaks, because they feel that no matter how careful they are, the carelessness of CDCR staff and transfers continually jeopardize their wellbeing and subject them to cruel quarantining practices.
Terry Mackey, a resident of the Alpine unit where the most recent outbreak occurred expresses, “They go home every night and come back…We can’t go home but we’re the ones who keep getting tested, keep getting quarantined and put on lockdown.”
“This is a controlled environment, and they are the ones controlling it, the only way the virus gets in here is through them,” Mackey adds.
Garcia reports that, “Those who test positive must leave most of their belongings behind and are immediately isolated in a building traditionally used as the solitary confinement “hole” for Death Row for 10 to 14 days.”
The vaccination rate amongst prison staff at San Quentin is 28% lower than the incarcerated population’s vaccination rate of 87%.
CDCR Confirmed COVID-19 Cases and Outcomes
As of Sept. 5 there have been a total of 49,924 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 138 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 138 cases are active in custody, while 601 have been released while active.
A total of 48,941 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic, and 240 individuals have died.
Currently, the CDCR reports that it only counts new infections not “reinfections” in its COVID-19 data reporting.
When asked for reinfection data, Kristina Khokhobashvili, Chief of the CDCR Office of External Affairs, declined and stated that, “Currently, the CDCR online tracker only identifies patients who have ever been infected with COVID-19, not incidents of infections among the population. Reinfection data are not available at this time.”
Because of this, while San Quentin suffered its second outbreak in mid august, the CDCR tracker currently reports zero positive cases in the past two weeks at SQ.
The CDCR’s inability to include reinfections denies the public knowledge of the true extent of outbreaks in CDCR facilities where the majority of cases are reinfections.
This week the CDCR has reported two more COVID-19 related deaths, one at the CA Institution for Men and the other at CA Men’s Colony, however they have not officially reported these deaths in their updates section.
Sierra Conservation Center has reported 42 cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks.
KQED, a National Public Radio affiliate, reported that advocates with the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office said prison officials told them “staff exposure appears to be the cause of the outbreak.”
Only 41% of Sierra Conservation Center’s staff population is vaccinated as compared to 70% of the incarcerated population.
In the past two weeks, CA Rehabilitation Center has tested the most individuals, 98% of its population.
There are currently 99,761 incarcerated persons in California’s prisons – a reduction close to 26,000 from the population in March 2020 of over 126,000 individuals.
Effect on Public
California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), the union representing California’s corrections officers, donated $1.75 million to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall defense fund last week.
Support for Newsom comes in light of the union’s new contract being put into effect, which includes $5,000 COVID-19 bonuses for each of the workers it represents in addition to a raise.
The CCPOA is the only California state government union that has negotiated a COVID-19 bonus paid with state funds.
A controversial proposal to implement a coronavirus vaccine or testing mandate for state workers has been abandoned for the year of 2021, but may be reconsidered in next year’s legislative session.
The proposal, which was never introduced to the legislature, would have required all employees in California who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to provide proof of vaccination to their employers or undergo weekly testing. The bill also would have mandated that customers show proof of vaccination to enter indoor venues such as restaurants, concerts, and gyms.
Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), co-author of the proposal states, “We are going to be out until January and you look at the fact that kids are in school and winter is coming.”
While this proposal wont be decided in the 2021 legislative session, this essentially pushes the issue of a statewide vaccine mandate on the governor, who could decide to implement a vaccine mandate on his own to help lessen the effects of the Delta variant spreading through California.
Although a universal mandatory vaccination order for state workers has not been implemented, California’s prison staff are subject to a vaccination mandate issued by the Dept. of Public Health. The Aug. 19 health order requires all staff members who work in correctional facilities that provide in-house medical care to be vaccinated by Oct. 14. According to the order, those with medical or religious exemptions will be excused.
As of Sept. 5, 2,707 patients have received their first round of vaccines statewide. 74,727 are fully vaccinated. 75% of the total prison population is fully vaccinated and 3 % is partially vaccinated.
1,964 staff members have received their first round of vaccines statewide. 35,745 staff are fully vaccinated. 54% of the total staff population is fully vaccinated and 3% is partially vaccinated.
Currently, the Correctional Training Facility has vaccinated the most incarcerated individuals, 90% of its population. Deuel Vocational Institution on the other hand, has vaccinated the least of its staff population, only 20%.
Division of Juvenile Justice
As of Sept. 5 there are three active cases of COVID-19 among youth. A total of 206 cases have been resolved since the first case was diagnosed in June, 2020.
A Year Ago Today
On Sept. 1 and Sept. 2 of last year, CDCR reported two deaths from COVID-19 at California Institution for Men and California Men’s Colony
On Sept. 4 2020, there were 11,207 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in CDCR and 59 deaths.