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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

California prisons see spike in COVID-19 outbreaks among inmates

In the last 14 days, 250 inmates at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19 and eight inmates have died.

SAN DIEGO — The number of Coronavirus cases inside of California’s prisons are exploding just as they are across the state. Outbreaks at the Donovan prison have some families concerned that nothing’s being done to stop the spreading inside.

Both inmates and staff at CA state facilities are contracting Coronavirus at alarming rates. The state says they are taking precautions, but a local activist says the inmates are telling her a different story. 

“We’re families out here that have incarcerated loved ones in there and we don’t want them to die,” said Mary Estrada, a Prison Inmate Advocate.  

In the last 14 days, 250 inmates at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19 and eight inmates have died from contracting the virus.  Estrada says she’s been pushing the state to get control of the outbreaks. She says her husband, who’s incarcerated at Donovan, has tested positive for Coronavirus.

“I’m going to believe the inmates because they live there. Donovan dropped the ball. They failed to take care of our loved ones from the start. When the pandemic hit in March, they or CDCR should’ve implemented a plan,” Estrada said.

As of January 3rd, there were 139 inmate and 11 staff deaths linked to COVID-19 across the state. Another 140 incarcerated people have also been sent to local hospitals.  

“I want the CDCR to be held accountable the negligence that they’ve done. This is all them, it’s not the visitors. I want them to stop the transfers so this way the spreading will stop,” Estrada said.  

Estrada says she plans to hold rallies near Donovan to bring more awareness.

The Dept of Corrections released a statement saying in part:

“RJD is following isolation and quarantine protocols per public health and health care guidance for the incarcerated population and has designated separate isolation units. Additional staffing resources are being redirected to RJD to offer immediate assistance with operations and/or health care.”

The statement also says as of January 3rd, all staff will be tested twice a week. If a staff member tests positive, they won’t be allowed in the prison and will have to immediately quarantine.