California’s oldest correctional facility, San Quentin, is set to release more than 3,500 prisoners close to finishing their sentences. The move comes at the heels of rising cases in the walled prison where COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The correctional facility had no known coronavirus cases through May. The spread of the pandemic started when 121 people were transferred from the California Institution for Men in Chino last May 30.
According to Bloomberg, almost 2,600 of the facility’s roughly 113,000 prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus. Before the planned release, there have already been 3,500 prisoners released before decompressing the overcrowded system. A medical evaluation of the medical condition of prisoners at the time was made before they were released.
California Governor Gavin Newsom is focusing on the San Quentin Prison right now with the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases. Among his plans include moving more than 1,000 infected prisoners to a hospital in Daly City. Roughly 42 percent of the population in the facility are considered medically high-risk.
Roughly 1,021 people incarcerated at San Quentin have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday. Nearly 1 in 3 of the prison’s total population of 3,507 has been infected. Aside from that, 89 staff members have also tested positive for the coronavirus. Mass testing is currently being conducted for all prisoners and staff.
The latest report from Sunday reveals that there have been 1,198 tests completed at San Quentin. Roughly 485 tests per 1,000 people are being done, more than five times the state and national rates. The CDCR is working closely with the California Department of Public Health to come up with a comprehensive staff-testing plan. This includes testing of all staff at the institution.
Prisons are singled out as an environment where the COVID-19 pandemic can spread rapidly. Adapting measures such as social distancing is nearly impossible, particularly in small cells with bunkmates. Aside from that, shared restrooms and other common areas contribute to a rapid increase in coronavirus cases.
The decision to release prisoners who are nearing their sentence is seen as a measure to reduce the population over at San Quentin. Newsom has been urged to reduce the prison population through early or earned release. Stopping the practice of transfer was also suggested.