Advocates Demand Action as Largest Women's Prison Experiences COVID-19 Outbreak

PRESS RELEASE:

For Immediate Release:
January 5th, 2021

Contact:
Kelly Savage – 435-559-4093, kellysav2018@gmail.com
Courtney Hanson – 916-316-0625, courtney@womenprisoners.org

Advocates Demand Action as Largest Women’s Prison Experiences COVID-19 Outbreak 

CHOWCHILLA, California – There is a life-threatening massive outbreak of COVID-19 at the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), California’s largest women’s prison. In the past two weeks, there have been 500 new COVID-19 cases, representing 25% of the population at CCWF. The prison’s ineffective protocols and gross negligence have directly fueled the spread of the virus. Conditions at CCWF continue to rapidly deteriorate, putting hundreds of lives at risk.

Despite having ten months to prepare for a potential outbreak, CCWF administration did not have effective plans or protocols in place to deal with this surge. After receiving positive COVID-19 test results, some cellmates continue to be housed together for hours on end, inevitably spreading the virus in crowded cells that house up to eight people. The units designated for quarantine are filthy, exacerbating breathing problems for those with COVID-19. Quarantine units do not have access to much needed disinfectant and cleaning supplies although these items are absolutely essential to reduce the spread of the virus.

People with COVID-19 are not being provided consistent access to medical care or daily prescribed medications. Anxiety and depression are rapidly increasing without the availability of mental health services. People are being denied communication with family and other life-saving support on the outside just at the time when it is most needed. Some women who asked for access to the phones and for electricity to use their tablets to email their families were hogtied and placed in cages as punishment. “Correctional staff have verbally mocked and degraded people who have tested positive,” says Kelly Savage of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. “They are implying that incarcerated people are to blame for their own illness, despite the outbreak being fueled by COVID-19 transmission by staff.”

Advocates at the California Coalition for Women Prisoners continue to demand expedited release for all medically high risk people and swift action by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and CCWF to contain the virus as quickly as possible and save lives. People in quarantine need immediate access to health and mental health care, access to all means of communication, and an end to retaliation for protesting negligent conditions.

  • Provide urgently needed healthcare, including mental health care, to people in quarantine.
  • Ensure access to telephones, tablets, and electricity so that those places in quarantine can maintain contact with their loved ones.
  • Enforce mask use by CDCR staff and mandatory sick leave for staff who show any symptoms of illness and/or who test positive for COVID-19.
  • Provide access to showers, laundry, clean N95 masks, gloves, and sufficient amounts of disinfectant.
  • Expedite release for medically vulnerable, and elderly people regardless of conviction.
  • Stop retaliation against incarcerated people who demand life-saving changes to quarantine conditions.

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CONTACT:

Bay Area Chapter
4400 Market St.
Oakland, CA 94608

info@womenprisoners.org
415-255-7036 ext. 4

CONTACT:

Los Angeles Chapter
P.O. Box 291585
Los Angeles, CA 90029