COVID-19 Outbreaks in Sacramento Jails Reaching Deadly Levels, Charge Family and Advocates

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Jo-el Barnes

By Lorelei Olivas

SACRAMENTO, CA – COVID-19 outbreaks in Sacramento county jails are endangering incarcerated lives, with both vaccinated and unvaccinated contracting the virus, according to families of those inside and advocates.

Activists, including Jael Barnes whose husband is currently in custody at the Sacramento County Jail, are fighting for better conditions for incarcerated, as well as releasing those who are in custody for non-violent charges.

Additionally, about 65 to 70 percent of those incarcerated have not been convicted and are just awaiting court hearings.

“The conditions are horrific. I mean, despite what they have told us, they have no real plans to keep these folks safe,” Barnes said in a news conference.

Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones said that all incarcerated are tested for COVID-19 and are offered a $20 incentive to get the vaccine. He claimed that the spike occurring in Sacramento jails is due to unvaccinated rather than anything else.

However, Decarcerate Sacramento argued that many of the incarcerated who got the virus were fully vaccinated.

Those incarcerated claim that not enough is being done inside the jails to stop the spread of the virus.

Barnes’s husband explained that when he contracted the virus, he was moved to a quarantine unit for 24 hours before being placed with other infected. He said that infected incarcerated are denied basic cleaning supplies and are forced to reuse their masks.

“I have been in contact with dozens of people on the inside and their families, and they all are scared that this just might be a death sentence,” Barnes said.

The recent COVID outbreak began to be investigated back on Oct. 22, with numbers of cases dramatically increasing in both Sacramento jails.

Several people have already died from the virus in the jails, even though some were already vaccinated against COVID.

William Francis Stevens contracted COVID back in January of this year, and he was found unresponsive in his cell a month later. He was taken to Sutter Medical Center where he later died at the age of 53.

“I know for a fact that my husband tested positive and he was not having his medical conditions met in that horrible place. Just because you’re an inmate doesn’t mean that you should not get your medical needs met,” said Jasmine McFadden-Stevens, his wife.

Advocacy groups are calling for change, arguing for a decrease in jail populations for the safety of those in custody.

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About The Author

Lorelei is a junior at UCSB and is majoring in English. She hopes to go to law school after undergrad.

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