Transfers Out Of CIM As A Conavirus Precaution Halted

The strategy of sending 693 elderly or otherwise at-risk inmates at Chino’s California Institution for Men to other penal institutions in the state was halted late last week after that ploy was partially actuated. The transfers were curtailed after it turned out that some of those prisoners sent elsewhere were recently determined to have tested positive with the coronavirus contagion. The hold on prisoners in Chino was extended indefinitely early this week.
The planned unprecedented exodus of the nearly 700 prisoners from the Chino Institution for Men (CIM) came about because that medium security facility proved to be in late April and well into May the hot spot in the state prison system for COVID-19 outbreaks, as it led at that time all other prisons in the dubious distinction of the highest numbers of infected inmates and staff. It has since been passed in that regard by Chuckawalla State Prison in Blythe and Avenal State Prison in Kings County. More alarming was that as of June 4, Chino was the only California State Prison having registered any coronavirus deaths, and that number came in at 12.
As of earlier this week, CIM had 513 inmates who had tested positive for the malady, and the death toll from the condition reached 13. There had been no other deaths caused by the virus elsewhere in the state correctional system.
An effort to make sure that those inmates departing from the California Institution for Men were virus-free was made; nevertheless, the testing for that purpose had been done on a majority of those prisoners roughly two weeks before officials began sending them to other prisons.
It was believed that a safe landing spot for them would be San Quentin Prison, where until two weeks ago there had been no confirmed cases of the disease. Soon after the first batch of men arrived at the facility located on the San Francisco Bay and where California’s only execution chamber is located, it was ascertained that some of them were in fact infected.
According to medical authorities, the incubation period before symptoms of COVID-19 will manifest can be up to 14 days.
California State Corrections officials had completed the transfer of 194, or just under 28 percent, of the 693 inmates that were scheduled to be moved out of the Chino prison, and were on the verge of dispatching the next installment of 125 men to various facilities in the Golden State when it was learned that 16 of those 194 had come down with the condition. A halt was immediately imposed on the transfer plan.
According to the best information available to the Sentinel, some of the infected prisoners from the California Institution of Men went to San Quentin and at least one went to Corcoran State Prison.
It was suggested, though not explicitly stated, that the spread of the coronavirus into San Quentin came about exclusively because of the transfers from CIM.
Attorneys from the Prison Law Office, who have been advocating on behalf of inmates throughout the state and who had pushed for the state to take measures to protect vulnerable inmates from the potentially deadly disease, said in a June 8 federal court filing that “Not surprisingly, some of those people tested positive after their arrival at the new prisons. Unfortunately, San Quentin, which was previously a COVID-free prison, now has COVID-positive inmates.”
As of yesterday, all staff who had contact with the inmates during the transfer were to be tested for COVID-19 in compliance with an order by Federal Judge Jon S. Tigar.
When lawyers with the Prison Law Office sought to have those prisoners deemed most vulnerable at CIM moved out of that facility because of an outbreak in one of the housing units, attorneys for the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation said doing so was not advisable because it might spread the virus into the population of the prisons where they were to be transferred. The state relented, however, with regard to the elderly inmates and those with conditions that might make them vulnerable to the disease after testing revealed that all of the housing units at CIM had inmates who had contracted the disease.
It now appears that what the lawyers for the state warned of has now come to pass. State prison officials are scrambling at this point to find a solution to the dilemma.
-Mark Gutglueck

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