Investigative journalism on the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on California's state prisons and county jails.
We collect and analyze COVID-19 data using the Public Records Act or public sources.
Our work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, Mercury News, among other publications, and our data is available on the UCLA School of Law’s COVID-19 tracker for carceral facilities across the United States.
High infection rates mean that incarcerated people are placed in quarantine or isolation for extended periods of time, and in-person visits or rehabilitative programs are suspended.
A recent Stanford University study published in Frontiers in June 2022 showed that the infection rate behind bars may significantly exceed the reported number of cases. The researchers used antibody testing to identify undetected infections among both staff and incarcerated people in local jails in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
“These knowledge gaps are especially dire for jails, which generally have worse data transparency than prisons despite their potentially outsized role in COVID-19 transmission” (References: Komarla, A. COVID-19 vaccination data in California jails: lessons from an imperfect model. Komarla, A. S.F.’s jails are leading California in COVID prevention. How are they doing it? No one knows. )
"In the Sacramento County Jail, from Oct. 6 to Nov. 11, COVID cases increased by 2,580%, resulting in 4% of its jailed population having an active case of COVID" (References: Covid In-Custody Project’s datafor Sacramento County and Alameda County jails)
"Sheriffs claimed that they could not release anyone from detention absent a court order or prosecutor’s agreement.” (References: Linh Nguyen & Aparna Komarla, Santa Rita Jail Does Not Administer or Recommend COVID Testing Prior to Quarantine Release.)
“As of December 2020, San Quentin has had 2,243 cases and twenty-eight COVID-19 related deaths” (Reference: Jaskiran Soomal, COVID-19 Could Only Have Reached Death Row Via Staff. Many of Us Believe This Was Intentional.)
“One such resource is a regional collection effort by the Davis Vanguard, which includes an accessible database covering several counties." (References: Tiffany Devlin, et al. Breaking Down COVID-19 in California Jails)
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