Prisons are supposed to be some of the most secure places on the planet so you might think they’d be safe during a global pandemic – unfortunately, that is far from the case.
In April, The Stream hosted a panel of experts to discuss the potential for outbreaks in US prisons if comprehensive measures were not taken to protect inmates and prison staff. With a recent surge of infections in several prisons across the country, the worries of those experts appear to have been borne out.
One hotspot, California’s San Quentin, is the subject of a new film by Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines. More than half of the prisoners in San Quentin have had the virus and as many as 28 have died.
A report released last month by California’s Inspector General found that prison staff had not followed rules on wearing face masks and social distancing and had not always enforced those rules with prisoners. Investigators found face mask non-compliance at 23 of the state’s 35 prisons and noted that only seven out of more than 63,000 prison staff in the state were investigated or sanctioned for failure to enforce the rules.
This month, a court ordered San Quentin to release or transfer some 1,500 inmates to help stem the spread of COVID-19 in the prison. While criminal justice advocates have applauded the measure, others are worried about the danger of releasing prisoners from a jail that houses some of California’s most violent offenders and is the location of the state’s death row.
In this episode of the Stream will take a close look at what has been happening at San Quentin and ask what solutions can be agreed upon to stop the virus taking hold in US prisons.
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