OAKLAND, Calif. — A state appellate court has ordered San Quentin State Prison to halve its inmate population, which would require transferring or releasing some 1,700 inmates.
The ruling from the state’s First Court of Appeals sends a clear message that officials overseeing San Quentin have not done enough to protect inmates from the coronavirus after a summer outbreak. “We agree that respondents — the Warden and CDCR — have acted with deliberate indifference and relief is warranted,” the court said in its opinion.
The court ordered officials to reduce the prison’s population to 50 percent of where it stood in June — a figure recommended by a team of experts after they investigated viral spread that has already killed dozens and sickened hundreds at San Quentin. The inmate reduction could be achieved through a combination of transfers and early releases, the court said.
A California Department of Corrections representative said in an emailed statement that “we respectfully disagree with the court’s determination, as CDCR has taken extensive actions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Since March, the department has released more than 21,000 persons, resulting in the lowest prison population in decades. Additionally, we have implemented response and mitigation efforts across the system,” the statement said. “As of today, CDCR’s COVID-19 cases are the lowest they have been since May (493 cases reported today, and over 14,000 resolved), with San Quentin recording only one new case among the incarcerated population in nearly a month.”covidcoro
What it means: This has immediate implications for some of the roughly 3,400 inmates incarcerated at San Quentin and the state prison officials who may need to transfer or release many of of them. It also intensifies a broader debate around the balance between public health and public safety in California’s vast carceral system.