Covid-19 Under Control at San Quentin

When other prisons across the country saw a spike in Covid-19 cases San Quentin brought the number down to zero.  By September 15, 2020  Covid-19 was under control at San Quentin.

Prison transfers spread Covid-19 at San Quentin.

In an effort to thin out the prisons population infected with the novel Covid-19 Coronavirus, CDCR started releasing prisoners by the thousands. Mostly offenders of non-violent crimes but still some incarcerated for violent crimes serving long sentences. About 11,000 prisoners were set free during the summer of 2020. That’s about 10 percent of the total State Prison population of 117,000 inmates. The exploding pandemic created an imbalance that needed to be readjusted. Shuffling inmates from one institution to another proved to be deadly for San Quentin.

San Quentin had zero confirmed Covid-19 cases in May 2020.

San Quentin had zero confirmed cases in May 2020, prior to the transfer on 5/30/2020 of 121 inmates from CIM.  California Institution for Men in Southern California had about 500 active cases at the time, with 13 Covid-19 related deaths. By July 20, 2020 the virus had spread inside SQ infecting 2,000 inmates and staff.  San Quentin inmate population at that time was 3,362.  Media headlines went viral as Covid-19 infects two thirds of SQ prisoners. “Outbreak Ravaged San Quentin’s Death Row.”  “San Quentin Prison pandemic conditions a ‘living hell’ for inmates.” …  and more.

San Quentin
San Quentin State Prison – Wikipedia

San Quentin State Prison is located in the unincorporated town of San Quentin in Marin County. The correctional complex sits on Point San Quentin. The 432 acres property is big enough to have its own zip code. It houses the largest Condemned Unit, or “death row” in the country.  SQ even has its own newspaper, San Quentin News. But what sets it apart from other California state prisons is the state of the art medical facility, with personnel to match.

Man Down!

When the Covid-19 outbreak exploded inside the SQ prison walls, the situation got out of control. “Man down” sirens seemed to blast every hour, directing inmates to lay down as guards and medical personnel rushed critical cases on gurneys to the medical facility. There was no blueprint on how to handle a pandemic in a prison facility, so the administration and the medical staff went to action.

Luckily San Quentin is a big facility with a lot of space. They quickly devised plans to spread out the population and distance inmates from one another as much as possible, by building tents on the baseball field, and repurposing the gym to accommodate more beds; even cleared the chair factory floor to make room for even more beds. Hand sanitizer and tens of thousands of additional pieces of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have been sent to San Quentin and distributed to both inmates and staff. Mandatory staff testing is taking place every 14 days, and every 7 days for inmates who tested negative or refused to test in the past. More measures taken are listed on CDCR website San Quentin State Prison Response

Covid-19 under control – miracle or success story?

While miracles happen out of the blue, success is achieved through hard work. Anything is possible with good leadership and a dedicated team, even when the task at hand seems impossible to accomplish. So yes, Covid-19 Under Control at San Quentin is a victory well deserved and attributed to both the prisoners and the administration. It is best summarized by Robert who got infected and lived through it all. Camp Snoopy, his term of endearment for San Quentin, did a good job.

Camp Snoopy did a good job!

“Well, I’m finally back on full track from that really scary fight with the Covid-19 virus, and I’m for friggen sure not looking for a secondary with it either. I have to hand it to Camp Snoopy as the medical department, as well as the prison administration right up to the warden himself, jumped all over the virus when it flattened pretty much everybody, on both sides of the bars.

At this time there are ZERO Covid-19 cases in San Quentin, which is nothing short of a miracle. Yes, I do really tip my hat to all of them, as do many other convicts. Quite unfortunately, out of the virus engulfing Camp Snoopy 26 convicts / inmates died from the virus; half of them I knew. Also, one bull named Sgt. Polanko died, which also sucked as he was a decent man, and showed respect to all of us, and got respect right back.”

Covid-19 Under Control at San Quentin. For now life returns to normal, even if it’s a new normal under quarantine imposed new rules and procedures. Robert describes it best when he ends his letter with this:

“Well, nuff of my jibber jabber, and off to chasing another parked car, except this time I’ll try not to get a hubcap stuck in my teeth! “

Read more articles here.