Another Preventable Heatstroke Death at CCWF Women’s Prison

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

The California Coalition for Women Prisoners is calling for a public health investigative after a woman died at the CCWF facility at Chowchila of what was characterized as a “fully preventable heat stroke” death.

Despite temperatures topping 113 in Chowchilla on Friday and Saturday and health officials around the state urging the utmost caution with heat related illness, the group alleges “CCWF staff have failed to implement even the most basic heat precautions.”

“It was heat exhaustion. She got into the shower to cool off and became incoherent, looking off and not responding when roommates were asking her if she was okay. She dropped to the ground and her legs started shaking and wouldn’t stop… I’m hearing she had heart failure at the hospital and passed Saturday July 6th at approximately 2 am,” said an incarcerated woman inside CCWF who wishes to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation.

Furthermore, the group claims, even after this tragedy, CCWP “is hearing from people inside that they are still being locked into cells reaching a temperature of ninety-five degrees causing widespread headaches, vomiting and other dangerous physical symptoms.”

“Access to cooling spaces as well as cooling items such as ice chips, ice water, electrolytes and cooling towels are simple steps that could be taken to alleviate the situation but officers are not following heat protocols,” the group said.

Almost a year ago the Modesto Bee exposed the severe heat related problems that were occurring at CCWF, but the group said, “nothing has changed.”

CCWP said they been receiving alarming calls and emails from incarcerated people throughout the heat wave.

“I need help please call up here… it’s 92 degrees in the hallway and 97 degrees inside of our rooms,” said Trancita Ponce, incarcerated at CCWF. “There is hot air blowing inside of our rooms, I have a huge migraine and I feel sick and other girls are throwing up. Not to mention somebody died two days ago from heat exhaustion. Please help us, they’re not doing anything for us.”

CCWP is calling for a comprehensive Public Health investigation into the tragic death this past weekend and the immediate implementation of basic life saving heat protocols in all of California’s prisons, including continual access to ice and air conditioned spaces, no lock downs in overheated cells, regular check ups by medical personnel on medically vulnerable people at a minimum.

“With increasing deadly heat waves in California due to climate change, the CDCR must not only follow its existing policies but develop and implement new policies that adequately protect the health and lives of incarcerated people,” said Kelly Savage-Rodriguez, a staff coordinator with CCWP who was incarcerated at CCWF for many years. “Staff negligence and preventable death is all too common in CDCR facilities. Amidst the growing threat of climate disaster, including fire and flooding, it is even more urgent that we bring our people home.”

“This happens every single year. They need to take accountability. If they did what they said they would do, someone would not have died. This would have been prevented,” said Rosann Leite, incarcerated at CCWF.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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