As COVID Surges Behind Bars in California, Why Is San Quentin Transferring Hundreds of Prisoners?

Prisons across the U.S. are facing their greatest swell in COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Nearly a quarter-million incarcerated people in the U.S. have been…

Prisons across the U.S. are facing their greatest swell in COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Nearly a quarter-million incarcerated people in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19, according to the Marshall Project, and advocates are pushing for incarcerated people to be prioritized in the country’s vaccine rollout. All of California’s state prisons have active coronavirus cases, but the California Department of Corrections is continuing to transfer incarcerated people between institutions. San Quentin State Prison has begun the transfer of nearly 300 incarcerated people to other institutions, against the advice of health professionals and despite the outcry of prisoners, after a California appeals court ordered prison authorities to cut the population of the overcrowded prison in half in October after a first wave of the coronavirus at the prison left 28 people dead. “The outbreak throughout the 34 prisons is surging in a way that shows that overcrowded, unventilated prisons throughout the state are not safe to protect people from COVID-19, something that public health officials have been saying for the past nine months,” says James King, a state campaigner for the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and a member of the Stop San Quentin Outbreak Coalition.

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