Assembly Republican leader issues statement on COVID-19 prison crisis

Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron issued the following statement in response to media reports today outlining attempts by California Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to address the COVID-19 crisis in California correctional facilities:

“Today the CDCR took a major step to address the seriousness of the pandemic crisis in our correctional facilities by allowing alternative confinement or release with full re-entry plans and federal grants for housing of high-risk medical inmates and non-violent offenders who would be released anyway within 180 days. Much more remains to be addressed.

“The coronavirus brings into focus the serious threat that a pandemic and other disasters can inflict on the incarcerated population, staff and criminal justice operations in our state. Recent media reports have exposed many problems in California’s prisons, including a lack of space, access to physical and mental healthcare, safety equipment and sanitary supplies, as well as shutdowns of services, building deficiencies, increased trauma due to disruptions in communication with loved ones and of course a general lack of preparedness by the state.

“As we warned, and are now seeing manifested, the virus will not stay within prison walls; the threat to all our communities remains high. There’s still more work to be done, as plans must be upgraded and put into place to address disasters and pandemics going forward that protect the health, safety and dignity of inmates and staff.

“For example, my bill, AB-2876, would immediately create a task force requiring the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, governor and legislature to take recommendations from stakeholders in developing and implementing emergency preparedness plans for correctional facilities.

“Nationwide, eight of the top 10 COVID hotspots are prisons. Worse yet, experts agree that prison cases have been severely undercounted. My hope is that the governor and my colleagues in the legislature have finally recognized the seriousness of the situation and will commit to working on improving conditions and safety in our correctional facilities.”