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Fears grow that releasing thousands of California prisoners will spread COVID-19 into communities

Anita Chabria, Richard Winton and Kim Christensen, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

So far, the state has freed 246 inmates listed as "active" COVID-19 cases.

They include Michael Kirkpatrick, 62, who had been deemed suitable for parole and was awaiting final approval when he was released from San Quentin on July 13 and driven to a downtown San Francisco hotel to quarantine with other recently freed inmates.

All were asked to stay put in their single rooms during their isolation, Kirkpatrick said, but few did. Some were out walking around San Francisco while awaiting the results of COVID-19 tests taken the day they were released.

"The only time you were supposed to come out is when they knocked on your door and brought you food," he said. "But you got guys who are just getting out of prison and want their freedom. The person at the front desk is not going to tell you not to go anywhere."

Kirkpatrick, who has since moved to transitional housing, said he only learned of his test results when he checked in with a parole officer. In the meantime, he said, he received not so much as a temperature check during quarantine, so he and a couple of other former inmates went to a county public health office and got tested.

"None of us knew anything, and it was bringing up a lot of stress," he said. "We didn't know anything and nobody was contacting us."


All tested negative, he said.

Joe Anderson was released early from the California Institution for Men in April, after serving time for fraud. Anderson, 32, said he left as coronavirus spread "like a wildfire" through the Chino prison.

"They checked my temperature and that was about it," he said, recalling that he hitched a ride to Sacramento with another inmate's mother and sister and then got a lift to Mendocino County.

He visited a Dollar Tree and a Wal-Mart before being summoned by the county health department for a coronavirus test, five days after his arrival, he said.


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