We are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus, a serious illness that is occurring in California and throughout the world. The COVID-19 emergency has had a great impact everywhere, including in CDCR. To minimize the impact of COVID-19 and ensure health and safety, CDCR is, among other things, screening all staff for symptoms when they come to work (including taking staff temperatures and turning away those a nurse says are too sick to work), shutting down visiting and many programs, using quarantines for people who might be sick and isolation for those who are, and making changes to how medical and mental health care works (such as postponing or cancelling non-essential appointments, both on-site and off-site, and limiting group therapy).
Steps you can take to reduce the spread of this illness are, to the greatest extent possible in your housing setting, to wash your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, stay six feet away from others, do not share food with others, and use hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies as much as possible on commonly touched surfaces. We understand that given your living situation in the prison, some or all of these instructions for minimizing risk will be impossible. As described in more detail below, we are advocating with the prison officials to do everything possible to minimize the spread of the virus and provide appropriate care to those who develop symptoms.
We believe the crowded conditions in CDCR present an unacceptable risk of harm fromCOVID-19. We and attorneys at the Prison Law Office have filed an emergency motion in the Plata and Coleman class actions (which concern medical and mental health care in the prisons), asking the three judge federal court to require CDCR to release people who are a low risk to commit crimes and those who are most vulnerable to get very sick or die if they catch COVID-19. We have asked that the court require CDCR to do this very soon. We do not know when the court will make a decision. We are very sorry, but unfortunately we cannot help you or any individual get released.
CDCR medical is providing COVID-19 tests for people with certain symptoms. If you have flu-like symptoms – a fever (high temperature), cough, or shortness of breath – you should let staff know right away, including by putting in a “sick call” request (CDCR Form 7362). As of the date of this notice, almost 200 CDCR incarcerated people statewide have been tested, with about 70 negative and one positive (the rest of the results are still pending). More people are being tested every day.
If you have a medical care or mental health issue that is not related to COVID-19, you should continue to let staff know, including by putting in a Form 7362. You should also continue to receive any medication ordered by your doctor. Pill lines may be run differently, or even delivered cell front, depending on staffing and quarantines. While we hope you do not need this, medical staff should still timely and appropriately respond to medical emergencies, and mental health emergencies should still result in a prompt evaluation by a clinician.
We are continuing to read letters from you, our clients. We want to hear from you about conditions in your institution, including how it is handling COVID-19. You can continue to write to us at P.O. Box 390, San Francisco, CA 94104; you can also call and leave us a message at 415-433-6830. We hope you can bear with us as RBGG staff are working remotely. We are continuing to work through remote computer access and during this time there will be a delay in U.S. mail processing and responses. Be assured that we are doing everything we can to support you, our clients, while maintaining the health and safety of our employees.
Additional information from CDCR and the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) is available below.