California Prisons Face 3rd Wave of COVID, Some without Vaccine Mandates

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

By Michele Chadwick


BAKERSFIELD, CA – As California prisons face a third wave of COVID infections, Kern County Superior Court Judge Bernard Barmann’s restraining order remains in place, allowing unvaccinated employees to remain working in prisons.


In October 2021, Judge Barmann enacted the restraining order. The order prevents the state from enforcing a vaccine mandate for guards and peace officers represented by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.


Following his order, Judge Barmann said, “What I don’t want to do is I don’t want to put somebody in a situation where there’s something that happens to them that truly is irremediable.”


Yet, exposure to unvaccinated individuals with no means to protect themselves is not only an 8th Amendment right violation but can lead to long term health effects that are truly irremediable for incarcerated people, the medical community has said.


Arguments against vaccine mandates often claim that mandates would result in understaffed prisons as crowds of correctional officers quit. However, when officers test positive, they cannot work, resulting in the dreaded understaffed prisons.


With the recent highly transmittable Omicron variant, the CDC reports that 3,156 prison employees have COVID as of February 2.


As unvaccinated officers continue to put incarcerated prisoners at risk, counties face wrongful death claims for prisoners who died due to COVID, families of those incarcerated state.


In San Bernardino County, the family of Russell Samuel Garcia alleged that he died of COVID-19 due to medical neglect at the jail.


According to the claim, “By September 2021, Mr. Garcia was infected with COVID-19 and denied adequate medical conditions of confinement and necessary medical care in further violation of his rights guaranteed by the United States and California Constitutions.”

About The Author

Michele is a senior at UC Santa Barbara from Los Angles County.

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