'I fear for my life': San Quentin State Prison inmate describes dire conditions inside prison as COVID-19 cases skyrocket

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020
San Quentin inmate describes dire conditions inside as COVID-19 cases skyrocket
San Quentin is now the epicenter of California's coronavirus outbreak. Marin County officials are asking for Governor Gavin Newsom to intervene.

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- San Quentin State Prison is now the epicenter of California's coronavirus outbreak. Marin County officials are asking for Gov. Gavin Newsom to intervene.

One inmate died last week. A post-mortem found he had COVID-19. Nearly 1,100 have tested positive along with 100 staff members.

Jones was tested but has not received his results.

"I see one, two, three, four.. I see 20 people right now without a mask and the police are not telling them nothing. It's bad in here, I fear for my life," said inmate Charles Jones.

RELATED: Marin health official expects COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin Prison to double in next 10 days

Behind bars, Jones tells us he found out about the outbreak on TV.

"I have headaches all the time. I sweat, I'm in pain a lot. How's your respiratory system? Bad. I have two inhalers. They had to fill my inhalers up," said Jones.

Outside of San Quentin's gate is Jones wife who preferred not to be identified. She had been waiting for his scheduled release since 6 a.m. Tuesday. Jones turned himself in a year ago Wednesday after his third DUI.

Four hours later she got a call from San Quentin's personnel that Jones will not be released. No future date was given.

"Now all of a sudden it's not his release date. I want to know what's going on," said Jones' wife.

Miriam Aroni Krinsky, former federal prosecutor and Executive Director of the nonprofit "Fair and Just Prosecution" weighted in on why it's taking long for discharge orders to be implemented.

"I think it's tragic but too many individual are operating with a business as usual mindset," she said.

RELATED: 'Many errors that led to this crisis': Officials say they warned of San Quentin Prison's COVID-19 outbreak

Krinsky is suggesting for the depopulation of state prisons during this pandemic.

"We know that there are hundreds of individuals who are near the end of their sentence. If someone has six months or less to serve. There is simply no reason to keep them behind bars, " she added.

Marin County hospitals have been inundated with COVID-19 cases from San Quentin. Marin Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis expects San Quentin's outbreak to reach 2,000 cases in the next 10 days and says the next 48 hours are critical.

"In 48 hours we really expect to have a more robust on-site presence for medical support. Additional doctors, nurses, beds, and we also expect to see an incident command structure. Where we can say - 'who is charge here?," said Dr. Willis.

RELATED: Rare look inside San Quentin Prison, home of death row

The outbreak is taxing local hospitals. Marin County official are urging the governor to intervene and set an incident commander at the facility.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says they will release some inmate by tomorrow. For now inmates like Jones, are waiting.

"I feel like I'm going to come home in a body bag," he said.

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