Safely Reducing Overcrowding in State Prison System a Public Health Imperative as Number of Cases, Deaths Continue to Rise, But More Action Needed


July 10, 2020 

Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice,
(909) 261-1398; [email protected]

OAKLAND, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced a plan to release 8,000 more people from the state prison system in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in prison facilities up and down the state, including the San Quentin state prison where more than 1,300 people incarcerated have contracted the virus and at least seven people have died. 

Most of the COVID-19 infections at San Quentin have been reported in the past few weeks, after a disastrous decision by corrections officials to transfer prisoners from the California Institute for Men in Chino, where a documented outbreak of COVID-19 had occurred, to San Quentin. Now, nearly half of the people incarcerated at San Quentin have contracted COVID-19.

Earlier this spring, Newsome ordered the release of 3,500 people in prison serving time for non-violent, non-serious offenses and who were within 60 days of their planned release date. The state’s prison population continues to far exceed the prison system’s design capacity, however, creating a dangerous environment that is allowing the virus to spread rapidly. 

To date, nearly 2,500 people in California prisons have tested positive for the virus, while 31 people incarcerated have died. 

The following can be attributed to Jay Jordan executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:

“The decision today by Gov. Newsom to ramp up safe prison releases is a credit to the advocacy of people and organizations throughout the state who have demanded clear action to protect public health and safety. It’s ironic that California has a moratorium on the death penalty, yet people are being killed in prisons by way of COVID. There is a moral imperative for bolder action to reduce overcrowding in our prisons. Too many people are locked up for too long by a bloated system that spreads poor health across California communities up and down the state. California must release people who are unnecessarily incarcerated and transform our safety priorities, so the core needs of communities that allow them to be safe are met and the number of people sent to prison in the first place is reduced.”