An informal sample survey of 100 men from all races inside San Quentin State Prison’s West Block revealed that more than 20 percent of prisoners who live there say they will not take a COVID-19 vaccination, or are undecided. The survey revealed that 18 inmates will not take the vaccine and 4 were undecided. The remaining 78 of some of the prison’s most vulnerable inmates have already received one or more COVID-19 vaccinations, which began in January.
When a prisoner’s loved one dies there are no good-byes, just an obituary that arrives in the mail with mom or dad’s name on the title. Prisoners have been dealing with such circumstances for years because there is no other option. The lucky ones may receive a call from the watch commander’s office telling them to “call home.” Everyone knows what that means, but it’s little consolation.
Casey* has been incarcerated at CDCR for nearly four years, and was recently transferred to the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in February 2020. Her transfer occurred just weeks before COVID-19 began to spread like wildfire across CDCR and other carceral facilities in the country.
James** is currently incarcerated at Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP), one of CDCR’s 35 facilities. He is a lead reporter for MCSP’s newspaper – Mule Creek Post. He reached out to the Vanguard in a letter to share detailed accounts of how the facility has been handling the pandemic over the last 10 months.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many prisons across the country have implemented extended lockdowns wherein incarcerated people have little to no yard time and get less than one hour to shower or take a phone call. These solitary-confinement-style quarantines are causing severe physical and mental harm.
A woman incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility reached out to the Vanguard with moving poetry about her experience with COVID-19 while in custody.
*Sam is currently incarcerated at CSP Solano. His fiancé, Jean*, reached out to Vanguard to share his experience with COVID-19 behind bars.
Olivia Campbell is an advocate for prison reform and has been bringing attention to COVID-related negligence in CDCR. She spoke to the Vanguard about the dire conditions incarcerated men at CA Medical Facility (CMF) are facing as a result of the prison’s mishandling of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Elizabeth*’s husband is a patient at California Medical Facility (CMF). She is intimately connected with the experiences of patients through her support network, which she shared with the Vanguard in an interview.
For months, Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) had zero cases of COVID-19 until the first case was reported in November. According to Jenny*, whose husband is incarcerated at DVI, the outbreak started at L3, which is an honor dorm that housed 61 people.
Michelle*spoke with the Vanguard regarding her partner Robert*’s experience with COVID-19 in CA State Prison, Solano.
In light of the recent COVID-19 outbreak at Pleasant Valley State Prison (PVSP), Diane* spoke with the Vanguard about her concerns regarding the physical, medical, and emotional issues her partner is experiencing.
Bart tested negative four times at California State Prison, Solano (SOL) before testing positive in December. He was subsequently placed in isolation.
Brian* was incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institution (DVI) in Tracy, but was recently transferred to Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) in Ione during a massive COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.
Mark* and Lewis* are currently incarcerated at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) and Substance Abuse and Treatment Facility (SATF) respectively.
Jamal* is incarcerated at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) in Susanville, CA. His mother shared his story with the Vanguard regarding CDCR’s negligence with handing COVID-19.
Orlando Smith is a thoughtful artist and reporter incarcerated at San Quentin. The Vanguard has had the privilege of speaking with Smith on multiple occasions regarding the prison’s conditions during the pandemic.
This account is part 4 of the Vanguard’s series on COVID-19 stories from CDCR. Click here for part 3 and here for part 2. In April, Jim* began keeping a daily log of the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths at Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (SATF) on his tablet.
This account is part 3 of the Vanguard’s series on COVID-19 stories from CDCR. Click here for part 2 and here for part 1. “We are all painted with the same brush”
Blake* is incarcerated at Valley State Prison (VSP) in Chowchilla. The Vanguard received a copy of a letter he wrote to his loved ones detailing his experience with COVID-19 .
Asher* is currently incarcerated at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) in Susanville, CA. In early November, he called his mother Mary* with chilling news about the devastating spread of COVID-19 at the facility.
99.1 percent of highly vulnerable individuals in CDCR custody were left seeking refuge from overcrowded conditions that could have turned their time in prison into a death sentence. Chancellor Wade is one of these high risk individuals who applied for early release while at Folsom State Prison (FSP) to no avail. He has a COVID risk score of 4 out of 5, and meets all the eligibility criteria under program 4. Wade says that the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions urgently necessitated the release of more individuals like himself.
Orlando Smith is a talented illustrated journalist, graphic artist and comic book creator. He has been incarcerated for 23 years under the draconian Three Strikes Law for each of the eight counts of robbery against him. Smith’s sentence is 250 years. Despite a hopeless sentence, Smith has spent time generating hope in his and others’ lives. He has honed his craft as an illustrated journalist and created over 65 graphic novels and illustrated, written and created 748 characters. As a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Smith’s work has been published in the Appeal.org, Davis Vanguard and the Columbia Journalism Review.
Following several outbreaks at the onset of the pandemic and recent vaccine rollouts for both staff and incarcerated persons, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities are experiencing record low COVID-19 case numbers (1).
Orlando Smith is a talented illustrated journalist, graphic artist and comic book creator. He has been incarcerated for 23 years under the draconian Three Strikes Law for each of the eight counts of robbery against him. Smith’s sentence is 250 years.
As of Jan 28, 2021, there have been 192 deaths across California’s 35 state prisons. Deaths have surged in the past month– increasing by over 30 percent. CDCR reported 63 deaths in January alone, whereas 64 were recorded between June to October of last year.
Due to the pandemic, jails and prisons across California have struggled with overcrowding, making social distancing challenging. As a result, CDCR implemented a range of early-release programs and expanded credit opportunities to reduce prison populations.
During the week of November 16 -20, 2020, the Vanguard’s San Francisco Court Watch reported on the U.S. District Court hearings regarding the Mesa Verde ICE detention center.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the United States since early March. While Americans scrambled to stock up on toilet paper and hand sanitizers, incarcerated people confined to their cells, tucked away from the rest of society wondered, “What happens to us?”
A detailed overview of when the first active case was identified at each CDCR facility, when active cases and testing counts peaked and the total number of deaths reported thus far
For the past 21 years, Orlando Smith has sat in his prison cell, filling his 250-year-long sentence with art as an illustrative journalist and comic book artist. This year, he got to illustrate the prison’s deadliest villain yet –– San Quentin’s COVID-19 outbreak.
May 30th 2020: 121 people are transferred from California Institute for Men (CIM) to San Quentin without prior testing; June 21st 2020: Within a week, cases increase from 49 to 504; July 7th, 2020: Active cases reach 1635 at San Quentin.
“The first to receive it were elderly and at-risk medical prisoners. Mule Creek’s acting medical chief support executive A. Altschuler was present in the visiting room as the boosters were given,” Franklin Lee, an incarcerated person at Mule Creek State Prison, wrote in his article published to the Prison Journalism Project.
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.
A new state public health order announced on Aug. 19 will require more CDCR staff to be vaccinated. This mandate is the most rigorous out of a series of public health orders outlining CDCR staff vaccination and testing requirements issued over the last few weeks. California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which serves as the State Correctional Officers Union, released a memo stating that they will fight back against vaccine requirements, as they do not find current infection rates severe enough to warrant vaccine mandates.
Only 42 percent of custody staffers in state prisons have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Half of all outbreaks between May and July were traced back to employees. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association filed documents with the court saying conditions in the prisons were improving, and that mandatory vaccines were not needed.
A third day of in-person visiting will also launch Aug. 13 on Fridays, as part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2021-22 state budget. As of now, visiting had been limited to weekends only. This additional in-person visitation received $20.3 million in the 2021-22 state budget in an effort to increase opportunities for incarcerated people to connect with their families and friends.
The delta variant now accounts for the majority of COVID cases in California, making up 83 percent of reported cases, according to the CDC. This week, CDCR announced that it will suspend the expedited release of incarcerated people who have less than 180-days to serve on their sentence, at the end of July.
A recent state budget report reveals that California’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic has amounted to $8 billion in total— $1.6 billion for California’s prison system, $3 billion in mask contracts and other supply procurements, $1.9 billion in testing contracts and $1.7 billion in relief for the homeless and other vulnerable populations
Twenty-seven facilities are in Phase 2, meaning there is partial reopening and modified gradual easing of Phase 1 restrictions. 210 facilities are in Phase 3, which indicates new normal programming. Reopening of programs and services will be reviewed and implemented weekly by the institution, according to the plan. If a facility experiences an outbreak, it must revert to Phase 1 restrictions.
33 institutions are in Phase 3, which indicates new normal programming. Reopening of programs and services will be reviewed and implemented weekly by the institution, according to the plan. If a facility experiences an outbreak, it must revert to Phase 1 restrictions.
“Although we continue to identify cases and clusters of COVID infection among unvaccinated employees, it appears that vaccinated staff have not contributed to these outbreaks,” read a memo from CDCR. These exemptions for vaccinated people will extend for the month of July. According to CDCR, CCHCS will continue to monitor the health of staff and residents to determine if routine testing can be stopped altogether for fully vaccinated persons.
Gov. Newsom terminated executive orders that put into the place the Stay-at-Home Order and the Blueprint for a Safer Economy effective Jun. 15, 2021, meaning State departments are no longer required to collect and report absentee data. As a result, CDCR will no longer be collecting COVID-19 data for their employees. The final cumulative employee COVID-19 data shows that there have been a total of 17,002 cases and 28 deaths among staff members statewide.
In an article for The Sacramento Bee, Thanh Tran spoke out about the conditions of being incarcerated at San Quentin during the coronavirus pandemic. San Quentin suffered a devastating outbreak following the transfer of over 100 incarcerated people from California Institution for Men (CIM) to San Quentin in May of 2020. San Quentin’s overcrowding at the facility and problematic response to the coronavirus from the staff has led to 28 deaths— the most deaths out of any California prison facility.
This lawsuit follows the district attorneys’ petition against the new regulations that expand Good Conduct Credits for incarcerated people, allowing about 76,000 individuals to be eligible for early release. Under these new regulations, one can earn more credits for good behavior or through participating in programs in prison.
As of May 29, there have been a total of 49,263 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 36 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 37 cases are active in custody while 607 have been released while active. A total of 48,395 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic, and 224 individuals have died.
As of May 22, there have been a total of 49,238 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 17 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 17 cases are active in custody while 608 have been released while active.
As of May 15, there have been a total of 49,241 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 22 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 22 cases are active in custody while 610 have been released while active.
The following previews a story originally published by San Quentin News. For an expanded account, visit https://sanquentinnews.com/elderly-san-quentin-men-struggle-with-covid-restrictions/
Juan Haines is a senior editor at San Quentin News, one of the few newspapers run by incarcerated people. Haines, along with other reporters, became members of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in 2015, which led to the inception of the first SPJ chapter inside a prison.
As of Apr. 24, there have been a total of 49,217 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 11 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 11 cases are active in custody while 613 have been released while active. A total of 48,371 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic.
Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD) was one of the few institutions able to weather the initial CDCR coronavirus outbreak in April 2020. The facility reported its first death in late December, but by the time CDCR’s cases had largely subsided in early February, the death toll at San Diego’s largest prison had shot to eighteen.
As of Apr. 10, there have been a total of 49,210 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 15 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 16 cases are active in custody while 611 have been released while active. A total of 48,363 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic.
As of Apr. 3, there have been a total of 49,212 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system– 25 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 27 cases are active in custody while 611 have been released while active. A total of 48,356 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic.
As of Mar. 27, there have been a total of 49,212 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 39 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 40 cases are active in custody while 612 have been released while active. A total of 48,343 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic.
As of March 20, there have been a total of 49,190 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 33 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 38 cases are active in custody while 613 have been released while active. A total of 48,323 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic.
The following previews a Filter Magazine story by Kevin Sawyer. For the full account, visit https://filtermag.org/prisoner-covid-overcrowding-california/ In October, San Quentin resident Ivan Von Staich’s habeas corpus petition produced a court order mandating that CDCR reduce the population of San Quentin by 50 percent to roughly 1,775 individuals.
As of Mar. 5, there have been a total of 49,150 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 175 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 197 cases are active in custody while 614 have been released while active. A total of 48,127 confirmed cases have been resolved since the start of the pandemic.
Incarcerated testimonies continue to pour in decrying administrative practices at CDCR’s CSP Solano (SLO). In a recent submission to the San Francisco Bay View, an incarcerated person— choosing to speak anonymously out of the fear of retaliation— corroborated concerns of staff negligence, misguided protocol, and harsh living conditions voiced in prior Vanguard narratives.
As of Feb. 19, there have been a total of 48,917 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 819 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 936 cases are active in custody while 698 have been released while active. A total of 47,073 confirmed cases have been resolved since the pandemic emerged.
California Medical Facility has faced an array of problems throughout the pandemic. The facility lacks proper heating, air conditioning, and poor ventilation despite it being a medical facility for vulnerable patients.
As of Feb. 6, there have been a total of 48,104 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 1,606 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 1,784 cases are active in custody while 694 were released while active. Roughly 94 percent of confirmed cases were resolved.
As of Jan. 29, there have been a total of 47,215 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 1,985 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 2,141 cases are active in custody while 677 have been released while active. Roughly 93 percent of confirmed cases have been resolved.
As of Jan. 22, there have been a total of 45,954 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 2,201 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 2,962 cases are active in custody while 668 have been released while active. Roughly 91 percent of confirmed cases have been resolved.
As of Jan. 16, there have been 45,174 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 3,813 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 4,348 cases are active in custody while 646 were released while active. Roughly 88 percent of confirmed cases were resolved.
Marcus Henderson is the editor-in-chief of San Quentin News, a monthly newspaper run by 15 San Quentin prisoners. He has been incarcerated since 2001 and will be eligible for parole in May 2022.
COVID-19 cases are continuing to spike across California prisons. Chris Washington is incarcerated at Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP). He told The Mercury that an outbreak occurred at SVSP after him and others were transferred from the prison’s D Facility to A Facility.
Alice Davis’ husband is incarcerated in California Training Facility (CTF). Due to the pandemic, Davis has not been able to visit him for nearly 10 months. She described her experience to The Californian.
40 year-old Michael Espitia is one of the 27 individuals set for early release this month. Espitia, who was convicted of second-degree murder as a teenager, has spent the past 20-plus years at Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran (SATF).
On May 30, San Quentin (SQ) had zero COVID-19 cases. Now, it has reported over 2,200 total confirmed cases and 28 deaths. The initial outbreak began when CDCR officials transferred 121 men from California Institution for Men, a COVID-19 hotspot, to San Quentin, without prior testing.
San Quentin (SQ) has confirmed 2,238 positive cases and twenty-eight deaths thus far, making it the second most affected facility across CDCR. With a population of a little over 2,800, SQ has been mandated to reduce its population by 50 percent per recommendations from public health officials.
Vanguard reporter Ozge Terzioglu spoke with the mother of an incarcerated person at Folsom State Prison (FSP) — the sixth most affected CDCR institution with 1,342 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
In the midst of the pandemic, Bill was caught between a fire camp in Valley View Conservation Camp and High Desert State Prison (HDSP) in Susanville. Bill, who was incarcerated for six years before being released in September, shared his experiences with the Davis Vanguard.
At San Quentin State Prison (SQ), the novel coronavirus has now claimed the lives of 28 incarcerated individuals, including one correctional officer. Marcus Henderson described his experiences witnessing the prison outbreak in an editorial published in the San Quentin News.
On May 15, 2020, Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus. A month later, the prison reported 989 cases. Despite months of warnings and implementations of preventative measures, the prison had tested only 16 people in a building that housed 200.
The COVID-19 pandemic has now claimed the lives of 28 incarcerated individuals and one guard. 55-year-old Ron Lee Joffrion survived the brutal past few months at San Quentin, and discussed his experiences in a testimonial written to San Quentin News.
Accounts from an incarcerated individual at San Quentin State Prison unveils the unsanitary and unsafe living conditions inside as the prison continues to recover from its major COVID-19 outbreak.
The decision comes as part of California Governor Newsom’s efforts to reduce the state’s incarcerated population amidst COVID-19 initiated budget cuts. Specifically, the state will save $182 million in annual operating costs, and will also avoid the $800 million that would be required to upkeep the prison and make crucial repairs.
The sight of his sister through the barbed wire fence at Folsom State Prison was supposed to mark the end of a grueling 22-year sentence for Kao Saelee.
In an excerpt shared with The Marshall Project, incarcerated writer Michele Scott testifies to the conditions within the world’s largest women’s prison and recalls events surrounding the death of a close friend.
For the past three days, Thanh Tran laid in a fetal position fighting off COVID-19. In Tran’s building alone, over 30 incarcerated individuals have been hospitalized.
Lee’lannee Wade-Denard’s husband contracted COVID-19 back in July while serving time at San Quentin Prison. Although he has since recovered, the chances of getting reinfected are not out of the question, given the conditions within the cells.
As of Aug. 28, there are a total of 10,377 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR system – 859 of them emerged in the last two weeks. 10.6% of the cases are active in custody while 3.2% have been released while active.
Incarcerated writer Rashaan Thomas recently shared an excerpt with Business Insider discussing the state of COVID-19 inside San Quentin State Prison.
Despite the outbreak raging through San Quentin, several journalists from the San Quentin news are determined to continue writing and get their stories out.
As releases continue throughout the CDCR system, we hope to tell more of the individual stories of incarcerated people during this time.
As of July 31, there are a total of 8,096 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR facilities, with 1,084 new cases in the past two weeks.
As of July 24, there are a total of 7,481 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR facilities, with 1,054 new cases in the past two weeks. 27% of the cases are active in custody while less than 3% have been released while active.
As of July 24, there are a total of 7,481 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the CDCR facilities, with 1,054 new cases in the past two weeks. 27% of the cases are active in custody while less than 3% have been released while active.
California firefighting forces are still lacking in numbers after four CDCR fire camps had quarantine extended. As discussed in our last weekly report, twelve Northern California Fire camps were put into quarantine after part of the camp’s population was exposed to an outbreak.
Public Concerns About COVID-19 in CDCR, As cases and death tolls continue to rise within CDCR facilities, the call for widespread release has grown.
CDCR Confirmed COVID-19 Cases and Outcomes
In Sacramento County, an analysis of court expert reports, data and incarcerated narratives from the Main Jail and Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center suggest that the jail administration and staff have failed to comply with the official COVID-19 mitigation protocol
On January 13, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office released a statement addressing the largest COVID-19 outbreak at the Main Jail and Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center. “This is the first outbreak between and within the jails. Once introduced to the jail, it spreads rapidly which we have seen,” it read.
Sacramento County acted on a policy of obfuscation and opacity when it came to releasing information about COVID-19 in the county’s two jails, defying a basic tenet of the democratic social contract and a guiding principle of California’s Public Records Act.
If the vaccination rate does not improve, the cost of implementing the new weekly testing requirement may be double, i.e. anywhere between $60,000 to $70,000 per month. Such a cost could be avoided if the majority of staff were vaccinated voluntarily or through a mandate.
A detailed overview of vaccination progress at Santa Rita Jail from the beginning the rollout to the present day. With a vaccination rate of 25% for the population and 10% for jail staff, recent data on COVID-19 cases and housing unit quarantines suggest that the jail is far from being out of the woods with the pandemic.
While the order stands out as one of few testing requirements for county jail staff in California, its implementation has been far from sufficient. By not reaching a 100 percent compliance rate and failing to test individuals in strict 14-day intervals, the Sheriff’s Office has unequivocally violated the order and undermined public health guidance.
With test positivity increasing in the community due to the Delta Variant of COVID-19, cases have increased at Santa Rita Jail. 11 cases were identified during booking or in custody during the entire month of May and June. In contrast, this month, 6 new cases were reported in the past week alone.
When the Covid In-Custody Project pressed ACSO representatives on conducting a survey to ascertain the vaccination status of ACSO SRJ staff, Captain Luckett-Fahimi stated that ACSO refuses to do so since “some staff have valid exemptions from getting vaccinated, religious exceptions, or have not gotten the vaccine yet for personal reasons.”
Using the California Immunization Registry (CAIR), the Alameda County Public Health Dept. matched 875 out of 1678 total ACSO employees with records of individuals who received at least one dose. 617 of them are fully vaccinated. The Public Health Dept. ran the search against 9 Bay Area counties, including Yolo, San Joaquin, Sacramento and Stanislaus. Any employee who was vaccinated outside of these select counties was not counted. To improve the search, names such as “Michael” and “Mike” were considered identical.
During the month of May, COVID-19 cases in Santa Rita Jail have remained low. Nonetheless, new cases continue to emerge at intake or in custody and the jail population is on an upward trajectory, meaning that the threat of infection still persists.
Davis Vanguard’s bi-weekly update on Santa Rita Jail’s COVID-19 crisis. Click here for previous updates. During the months of April and May, Santa Rita Jail reported a handful of new COVID-19 cases among the incarcerated population and staff.
In 2018, attorneys from Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld LLP filed a class-action lawsuit, Babu v. Ahern, on behalf of incarcerated people with serious mental illnesses in Santa Rita Jail (SRJ).
Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail (SRJ) is infamous for having the highest in-custody death rate across all county jails in Northern California. Since 2014, 50 individuals have died while in SRJ’s custody.
Bob Britton, an activist with the Interfaith Coalition for Justice in Our Jails part of Faith in Action East Bay and a member of the County Justice Involved Mental Health Task Force. He is a retired union executive who previously represented the Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and Public Defender Attorneys.
COVID-19 cases at Santa Rita Jail (SRJ) have been steadily rising over the past two weeks. Currently, there are five positive cases at SRJ, all of which are asymptomatic.
Santa Rita Jail has reported 109 total COVID-19 cases among staff/contractors since the pandemic emerged. All of them have recovered, leaving no current cases.
While COVID-19 cases at Santa Rita Jail have dwindled over the last two weeks, the virus continues to threaten the health of those in custody since the population size is on a steep upward trajectory and reached an all-time high this month.
COVID-19 cases at Santa Rita Jail have been relatively low over the past two weeks, showing a steady decline to the present day. While cases have been low, so have weekly testing rates.
COVID-19 cases have dropped significantly at Santa Rita Jail over the last two weeks. Multiple recoveries were reported on a daily basis, leaving 14 active cases in custody of Feb. 7.
An outbreak at Santa Rita Jail that started with 50 COVID-19 cases before Christmas Eve, has spilled over into 2021. As of Jan. 26, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office reports 76 active cases in the jail. Every dorm has been quarantined as a result of the ongoing outbreak.
Santa Rita Jail plunged into a massive outbreak during December, reporting over 100 positive cases in custody on Dec. 30. It subsided during the early days of January, however, another surge in cases emerged on Jan. 20. Cases continue to rise and multiple housing units are quarantined.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) reported a massive outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Santa Rita Jail (SRJ) on Dec. 23 — right before the Christmas holiday.
Over the span of two weeks and the Thanksgiving holiday, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) reported six positive cases in the incarcerated population and nine staff/contractor cases.
Over the span of two weeks, there was only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Santa Rita Jail (SRJ). It was first reported on Nov. 7 and resolved in nine days. As of Nov. 16, there have been zero cases in custody.
For the last 2 months, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has been holding weekly public conference calls to provide an interface for community members to raise concerns regarding COVID-19 in Santa Rita Jail.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, prisons and jails across California have served as petri dishes for the disease. The CDC advises medical isolation/quarantine for those who test positive to contain the spread of the virus.
On Sep. 8, John (name changed for anonymity) started feeling unwell. Four days later, on Sep. 12, his symptoms worsened and he reported his condition to a nurse.
Approximately a week after the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office reported its third COVID-19 outbreak at Santa Rita Jail, 16 of the 18 active cases were reportedly resolved in a day.
One week after the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office reported zero cases of COVID-19 at Santa Rita Jail, an outbreak with 17 active cases emerged. This led to serial testing and multiple housing unit quarantines.
This week at Santa Rita Jail, while the jail population increased to its highest population since April, ASCO reported that there were no active cases of COVID-19 among the jail population. Three new active cases emerged three days after ASCO made this announcement.
Last week, Santa Rita Jail saw a population spike over Labor Day Weekend, raising the population to the highest it has been since Apr. 10 when the jail began releasing individuals to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Last week at Santa Rita Jail, two housing units under quarantine were released days after they began quarantine, citing negative test results for the index case. No new positive COVID-19 cases among the incarcerated population have been detected for six days.
At the beginning of the week, the SCU Lightning Complex Fire, burning about 20 miles from Santa Rita Jail, threatened the safety of the population with smoke that made breathing difficult and posed the risk of evacuation.
Since May, Davis Vanguard has led an ongoing investigation into different county jail responses to COVID-19. In Alameda County, many currently and formerly incarcerated people
Eight new cases have appeared in Santa Rita Jail (SRJ) since last Sunday, although there have been no new cases since Wednesday.
There is a new and ongoing outbreak in Santa Rita Jail as of Sunday, August 16. 18 people tested positive last week, despite particularly low testing rates. The majority of new cases appeared only yesterday.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) provided less information in their daily COVID-19 updates these last two weeks compared to information released previously.
As of August 2, the recent outbreak in Santa Rita Jail appears to be subsiding, in sync with a decrease in new daily cases across Alameda County as a whole.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office uploads a daily report of current COVID-19 numbers in the jail. Over the last two weeks, these reports have become error-prone, undermining the credibility of the Sheriff’s Office. Furthermore, the case numbers SRJ reports have become even less credible due to their lack of serious testing. A couple hundred tests is not nearly enough to know whether the outbreak has spread elsewhere in the jail, especially when so many other tests come back positive.
As of July 18, there are 101 active confirmed COVID-19 cases in Santa Rita Jail (SRJ), more than double the total number of recorded cases prior to this week. According Sheriff Spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly, the outbreak is located in HU 25 and 22, where the jail saw a spike in cases on Wednesday night and Friday respectively. HU 25 houses those who work in the kitchen and laundry.
In testimony published on May 22, Angelo Valdez, an individual who was formerly incarcerated in Santa Rita Jail, claimed that staff had manipulated the testing procedure to keep case numbers down. According to Valdez, after he tested positive for they waited until he had completed his 14-day quarantine, then quarantined and tested the pod he had been living in.
Malik Washington, the San Francisco Bay View editor who garnered much attention in the Bay Area and beyond for exposing a COVID-19 outbreak at Taylor Street Halfway House, has been forced to remain silent while facing the threat of disciplinary sanctions and potential re-incarceration by the GEO Group and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
While the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to devastate the country and claim the lives of many, it has also exposed appalling shortcomings in the penitentiary system. It is apparent that jails and prisons cannot handle the combination of mass incarceration and a deadly virus.
Since the San Francisco County jail began testing arrestees at Jail #1, also known as the Intake & Release Center, 23 people have tested positive for the virus. All of them have been asymptomatic.
With a total incarcerated population of 2,400 people, Santa Clara County’s Main Jail and Elmwood Correctional Complex are among 100 correctional systems nationwide with over 1,000 people in custody. During the pandemic, the deadliness of the virus has been exacerbated by the jails’ population density and the poor implementation of masking, sanitation and social distancing protocols.
The Law Foundation of Silicon Valley (LFSV) presented a letter to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on March 17, criticizing the Santa Clara County Main Jail and Elmwood Correctional Facility for their failure to protect incarcerated people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Santa Clara County’s Main Jail and Elmwood Correctional Complex have faced numerous devastating COVID-19 outbreaks since the pandemic emerged. Under the California Public Health Dept.’s vaccine distribution framework, incarcerated people and staff have been given priority amongst other vulnerable groups since they live or work in congregated settings.
Santa Clara County Jails reported a second major COVID-19 outbreak at the beginning of January 2021, yet again highlighting the severity of the pandemic behind bars. To date, the highest number of positive cases on a single-day is 127 within a population of 2212 people, reported on January 11.
Re-entry and rehabilitative programs assist incarcerated people in successfully transitioning into society after a period of incarceration to mitigate recidivism. These programs help individuals regain a sense of hope for a better future.
Seven incarcerated people inside Elmwood Correctional Complex in Milpitas, CA, Santa Clara County, expose the unsafe, unsanitary conditions inside the jail and blatant negligence from the jail’s correctional officers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, the number of active cases among the population dropped from 91 to 22 in a matter of nine days. This week, that number dropped to as low as six cases. On Thursday Aug. 27 and Friday Aug. 28, the number of cases rose by two, now reaching 8 active cases. Nearly 300 tests have been completed since last week, raising the number of completed tests to 6370.
Access to regular data on cases, testing and now vaccinations has been a struggle throughout the pandemic, unlike other coutnies that publish data on their websites. Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Tony Botti was blunt when explaining why data was not forthcoming. “It stirs up hysteria when things become so data driven,” wrote Botti in a July 21 memo.
In February of 2021, the Fresno County Jail made national headlines. With 3,985 total COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, the New York Times found that the jail had one of the highest infection numbers of any correctional facility in the nation. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the facility, has not been forthright on conditions in custody. Infection numbers are rarely reported, and official accounts of the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the facility are vague at best. However, for those within the facility the mishandling of the pandemic in the jail is all too clear.
Vanguard reporter Jannat Alam spoke with an individual incarcerated in the Fresno County Jail — the hardest hit correctional facility in the United States with a total of 3,985 total confirmed positive cases, most of which were contracted during the initial outbreak in June 2020.