November 25, 2020
UCSF White Coats for Black Lives, SF Bayview
On Oct. 1, Kathleen Allison was appointed secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) by Gov. Newsom in the midst of continuing COVID-19 outbreaks within state prisons. Since March 2020, over 15,500 incarcerated people have tested positive for COVID-19 in California’s state prisons and 76 incarcerated people have died. As healthcare professionals and students, we are appalled by CDCR’s continued negligence in putting people at risk of death by incarceration.
Gov. Newsom placed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2019. If the governor and Secretary Allison, a registered nurse, fail to implement necessary public health measures to decarcerate, they will continue to be complicit in enacting the death penalty by another name.
It is not a coincidence that people who are incarcerated have borne the greatest burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prisons and jails have always threatened individual and public health. The trauma, isolation and inhumane living conditions of prisons and jails lead to “accelerated aging” for people who are incarcerated – such that they have health conditions comparable to non-incarcerated individuals who are 10-15 years older.
Additionally, health care services in California prisons are notoriously abhorrent. Following a lawsuit in 2001, the state conceded that the deficiencies in CDCR’s health care provision comprised “cruel and unusual punishment.” Another lawsuit against the state arose when, between 2007 and 2015, CDCR’s neglect led to a massive Valley Fever epidemic in California prisons located in the Central Valley. Fifty-three individuals died, and countless continue to experience lifelong, debilitating health consequences.
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