I have been working inside San Quentin State Prison, California's oldest prison, for close to 10 years. In that time, I have met countless people dedicating their lives to peacemaking, and have witnessed incredible courage and transformation. There are dozens and dozens of men inside this prison that I have come to know and to care deeply about.
That is especially why it has been so scary to read updates about the coronavirus outbreak there. On May 30th, CDCR transferred 121 men from the California Institute for Men, a prison in Chino, CA that was dealing with its own outbreak to San Quentin. Despite there being over 500 active cases of coronavirus in that prison at the time, and despite the fact that the 121 people transferred were considered "highly vulnerable," many of them had not received a test in 2-3 weeks.
At the time of the transfer, San Quentin had no recorded cases of coronavirus. As of this morning, there are 1,082 cases among the inmate population, with hundreds more staff being infected.
San Quentin houses a large population of older inmates. In addition to so many people being vulnerable to the virus, they are not receiving proper medical care or enough personal protection equipment such as soap and sanitizer. The entire prison is locked down, with men who have been tested positive being housed in temporary tents set up on the main yard.
San Quentin has a total inmate population of just over 3,500, which means that almost one in three incarcerated people have now tested positive, most of them in the past two weeks alone. And these numbers are with a lack of adequate testing, which means that the real numbers are most likely higher than that.
We are asking everyone in our community to support the incarcerated people of San Quentin, and that prison and state officials act immediately to protect their health, well-being and basic human rights.
And contact these people:
Governor Gavin Newsom; Public Comment form: govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/; (916) 445-2841
Ralph Diaz CDCR Secretary; firstname.lastname@example.org; (916) 324-7308
Assemblymember Marc Levine, Assemblymember.Levine@assembly.ca.gov; (415) 479-4920
Senator Mike McGuire; email@example.com; (415) 479-6612
Mayor of San Rafael; firstname.lastname@example.org; (415) 485-3074
Dr. Diana Toche, Undersecretary Health Care Services, Diana.Toche@cdcr.ca.gov
Office of the Inspector General (OIG): Complaint form: https://www.oig.ca.gov/connect/report-complaint/; (800) 700-5952
- Tami Falconer, Ombudsman; email@example.com; (916) 324-5448
- CDCR’s COVID-19 Triage Department; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jennifer Barretto, Director, Health Care Policy and Administration, California Correctional Health Care Services; Jennifer.Barretto@cdcr.ca.gov
- Assemblymember Ash Kalra: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org (916) 319-2027, (408) 277-1220
- Senator Nancy Skinner: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, (510) 286-1333, (916) 651-4009
- Senator Scott Wiener: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, (415) 557-1300, (916) 651-4011
Much more information, including sample scripts/emails, links to news coverage, social media images to share and more are in the resource list linked above. Our thanks to groups like the Ella Baker Center and Insight-Out Prison Project for helping to lead the charge.
Please do what you can to share information with your community.