The In re Von Staich decision sets an important precedent for the right of incarcerated people to be protected from harm in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic. On October 20, 2020, the First Appellate District Court of Appeal in California ordered the removal “of the number of prisoners necessary to reduce the population of that prison to no more that 1,775” incarcerated people in San Quentin. This ruling finds that the CDCR violated the 8th amendment, cruel and unusual punishment, by ignoring the calls of public health officials and other medical experts who urged at least a 50% reduction in the San Quentin State Prison population in order to protect the health of people inside. Furthermore, the decision states that the Warden of San Quentin State Prison and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) “acted with deliberate indifference” to the well-being of the incarcerated people in their care.
The previous Court of Appeals decision and order to reduce the San Quentin population by 50% on October 20, 2020 is now “vacated” (meaning no longer in effect). In February of 2021, the Court of Appeals found that an evidentiary hearing is required before a decision can be made and agrees orders the evidentiary hearing happen in the Marin County Superior Court
The evidentiary hearing is to address “the efficacy of the measures officials have already taken to abate the risk of serious harm to petitioner and other prisoners, as well as the appropriate health and safety measures they should take in light of present conditions.”
The hearing began May 17, 2021 and testimony concluded on June 4. No dates were set for the final decision.
Source: Ella Baker Center