San Quentin coronavirus: Former inmate says prison staff hides lack of sanitation in front of auditors

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A Sacramento resident and former San Quentin inmate is revealing details about the dire conditions inside the state prison.

It's a ticking time bomb where former inmate Charles Jones says he was lucky to leave alive.

RELATED: CA assemblyman calls San Quentin outbreak 'worst prison screw up in state history'

"Yes, like a big warehouse room with beds... There is no social distancing. They try ,but it's hard because there are people on medication and stuff like that. They don't understand," said Jones.

We met Jones' wife outside of San Quentin exactly two weeks ago as she waited for his early release.

Finally on July 6, Jones, who had 16 months left in his sentence for a third DUI, was released. He describes finding out about the outbreak inside the state prison from his wife.

RELATED: Inmate shares how massive COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin started

"You had no idea there was an outbreak?" ABC7 New reporter Luz Pena asked.

"No," he replied. "I had no idea."

He says he didn't realize it was serious until he heard it from his wife.

"I talked to my wife and they were bringing people in and putting red tape on the benches, red tape on the floor, and I was like, 'It's scary," Jones said. "And they posted COVID-19 we've been exposed. I found out like a month later that it was a big outbreak," he said.

RELATED: San Quentin inmate describes conditions inside prison as COVID-19 cases skyrocket

The latest numbers are grim, with 2,365 inmates infected system wide, and San Quentin becoming the eye of the storm with 2,032 cases and 10 deaths.

"When I was in there I had this mask here and when I got released they gave me this N95 to put on. They said, 'Put it on now.' Yeah, they should have given me this one when I was in there," said Jones.

The California Department of Correction says supplies are given out on a weekly basis, including cleaning and disinfecting supplies and personal protective equipment. Additional hand sanitizer refills are available upon request.

Jones, revealing prison staff masking the lack of sanitation, says, "When the auditor comes out. They got the tape where you can social distance and stuff, but when they leave its back to normal."

In a statement the CA Department of Corrections said to ABC7 news, "San Quentin has implemented modified programming where dining, phone calls, and showers are provided in staggered schedules to allow for physical distancing and proper disinfecting between each use."

RELATED: San Quentin's rising COVID-19 numbers could have major impact on Marin County, officials say

As the outbreak intensifies, a medical command center was established with tents, and a facility turned into a 220-bed care site.

While Governor Newsom is reveling the early release of 8,000 inmates system wide by August, Jones is claiming that's not enough.

"When I left, I saw grown men crying. They were thinking they weren't going to see their grand kids anymore. Like I didn't get the death penalty. I'm scared. There were grown men crying. Gangsters were crying."

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