More than 2,300 inmates across the state have taken sick, 31 have died, and San Quentin has the worst of it.
RELATED: Activists call on Gov. Newsom to address San Quentin outbreak
The lucky ones passed through gates Thursday morning.
They returned to freedom through the door of a van and joined loved ones, hoping to never see this place again, especially with COVID-19 raging inside.
"It's a pandemic going on in there," said one former inmate who declined to provide his name.
"Do you feel safe?" ABC7 News reporter Wayne Freedman asked.
"Not at all," he replied.
RELATED: Inmate shares how massive COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin started
Or, as Wayne Mobley stated with four simple words, "Scary. Dangerous. Unforgettable. Unpredictable."
Their sentiments and fears explain why, as released inmates left, a large crowd formed outside, lamenting and protesting.
"...Nothing less than the worst prison screw up in state history," lamented California State Assemblyman Marc Levine.
San Quentin has become the quintessential COVID-19 hot spot, with seven deaths and well more than 1,000 cases.
Even the California Department of Corrections admits that this could have been prevented.
San Quentin's outbreak began last May, when the facility had no cases at all.
RELATED: San Quentin inmate describes conditions inside prison as COVID-19 cases skyrocket
The state transferred in a group of inmates, not knowing they had been infected, creating a perfect storm in overcrowded conditions.
"So it was ripe for an outbreak. We saw this coming. We did nothing. The human error made it worse," said Assemblyman Levine.
One after another, today, people like Shawonda Scott demanded that Governor Gavin Newsom visit and act.
"They are dying in there. They are dying! Free my baby!"
They want non-dangerous prisoners released. And decent medical care.
"I want you to feed them properly. Give them health care properly," pleaded Scott.
Former inmate James King reminded the audience that the coronavirus has many avenues for getting outside.
RELATED: San Quentin's rising COVID-19 numbers could have major impact on Marin County, officials say
He gestured at correctional officers leaving in their cars.
"They stop at Trader Joes. Gas stations. This is the largest hot spot in the state and as we stand here, cars keep going in and out. That is why we should care. It's all of us," he said.
All in danger from a virus that does not recognize bars or walls.
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