SAN QUENTIN (KPIX 5) — Demonstrators gathered at San Quentin State Prison Thursday as the worsening coronavirus outbreak tallied still more infections. More than 1,300 inmates, about 40 percent of the entire population, have tested positive for COVID-19. Seven condemned inmates have died.
Inmates’ family members, elected officials, health care providers were among those rallying outside San Quentin, immersed in a coronavirus outbreak so severe it’s putting pressure on Bay Area hospitals.
“This is not about ‘Oh, they did a crime,'” said Shawanda Scott, a mother of one San Quentin inmate. “They’re humans. You do not have the right to put lives in jeopardy.”
“Nothing less than the worst prison health screwup in state history,” is how Assemblymember Marc Levine of Marin County described it.
The primary focus of the demonstration, however, was what comes next.
“There are thousands and thousands of men and women within the prison system that need to be released,” said Marion Wickerd, whose husband – like about half the state’s prison population – is considered a low-risk inmate by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s own assessment tools.
“Governor Newsom, release the prisoners now,” Levine asked to a cheer from the crowd.
“We have a plan, within the next few weeks, to bring that population down from 131% capacity down below 100% capacity,” Newsom said during a coronavirus briefing Thursday. “That will happen.”
Newsom called the San Quentin outbreak “incredibly frustrating.” While he’s promising more help, there are now more calls for accountability.
“People have lost their lives because of these decisions, by people who still have their jobs,” Levine said. “This has to end.”