A year since the onset of the pandemic, the #StopSanQuentinOutbreak coalition continues to call for urgent releases across California prisons, jails, and ICE detention centers, as decarceration remains the only public health solution to overcrowded prisons and the continued threat of COVID-19.
This past March 22nd marked exactly one year since the first confirmed COVID-19 case of an incarcerated person in California’s state prison system. As of today, all of California’s 35 prisons have experienced at least one COVID-19 outbreak. Within CDCR, 49,222 incarcerated people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 218 have lost their lives due to the virus. For those incarcerated people who survived, much of the last year was spent under excruciating 23-hour-per-day lockdowns, all without access to family visits, in-person legal proceedings, programming, regular showers or recreational yard time. Beyond the numbers, our community behind bars, including those in jails and ICE detention centers, have and continue to endure mental health crises, grief and trauma that cannot possibly be measured by the staggering death toll.
Vaccination Alone is Not Enough; We Need Decarceration: While California’s prison population has decreased by roughly 24,000 individuals in the past year (in part due to the temporary halting of intake from county jails across the state, releases of roughly 3,000 people per month as standard operating procedure, and an early release program introduced by Governor Newsom that authorized early releases of up to 8,000 incarcerated people) 20 California prisons are still operating at above 100% design capacity.
Despite progress towards wide-scale vaccination, research shows that even high-efficacy vaccines will be significantly less effective in high-spread, congregate settings like prisons, due to factors like overcrowding, inadequate healthcare, and mistrust of the carceral healthcare system by those with lived experiences of harm within CDCR. A peer-reviewed perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine (the world’s leading medical journal) asserts, “Reliance on vaccination alone thus seems unlikely to achieve necessary reductions in COVID-19 transmission in incarcerated populations. Fortunately, we already have strong evidence for a policy tool that can stop the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons: decarceration.” It is clear that access to vaccines coupled with significant decarceration is the only solution to the public health crisis that persists across California prisons, jails, ICE detention facilities, and juvenile facilities.
The #StopSanQuentinOutbreak coalition asked incarcerated community members to share their reflections from the past year of being incarcerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Listen and share their reflections on their experiences
Here are a few actions you can take today to stay informed and support incarcerated community members across California:
- Arab Resource & Organizing Center (FB, IG, TW)
- Asian Law Caucus (FB, IG, TW)
- Asian Prisoner Support Committee (FB, IG, TW)
- California Coalition for Women Prisoners (FB, IG, TW)
- Californians for Safety and Justice (FB, TW)
- Californians United for a Responsible Budget (FB, IG, TW)
- Critical Resistance (FB, IG, TW)
- Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (FB, IG, TW)
- Dignity & Power Now (FB, IG, TW)
- Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (FB, IG, TW)
- Essie Justice Group(FB, IG, TW)
- Human Impact Partners (FB, TW)
- Initiate Justice (FB, IG, TW)
- Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (FB, TW)
- Justice Reinvestment Coalition (FB, IG, TW)
- Re:Store Justice (FB, IG, TW)
- Root & Rebound (FB, IG, TW)
- San Quentin News (TW)
- Silicon Valley De-Bug (FB, IG, TW)
- Stop San Quentin Outbreak (website)
- Transgender Gender-Variant Intersex Justice Project (FB, IG, TW)
- UnCommon Law (FB, IG, TW)
- Urban Peace Movement (FB, IG, TW)
- Young Women’s Freedom Center (FB, IG)