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Serial killer, respected guard and many others killed by COVID-19 surge in California prisons

Richard Winton, Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Still, the complaints from inmates and family repeat across facilities. Among them: staff who continue to flout mask rules; sick inmates quarantined in cells with those who are healthy; test results that take weeks to get back; no access to phone calls, laundry and even safe water at times.

"The staff is not following proper PPE protocol," said the loved one of an inmate at the California Medical Facility near Vacaville. The person asked to remain anonymous for fear the inmate would face retaliation. "No masks, no hand sanitizer, no extra cleaning supplies."

Sherri Lashure, an inmate at the California Institute for Women, wrote in a Jan. 6 email, "Staff routinely congregate in groups without face coverings. … On numerous occasions, we have run out of cleaning and disinfecting supplies without absolutely any means of getting more."

Simas denied the allegations, saying that "CDCR is providing the incarcerated population with cleaning supplies. … We take addressing COVID-19 and protecting both staff and in the incarcerated population very seriously."

More than 400 inmates at the women's prison in Riverside County have contracted the virus; official counts say the facility currently has two active cases. Many inmates, however, said they were suspicious of case counts because some prisoners refuse to test, fearing they will be isolated in poor conditions, and because it can take weeks to get results back.

Some families said proper healthcare for those who have fallen ill is lacking, though some guards and inmates at facilities that house special needs prisoners have begun receiving vaccines.


Jessalynn Graham, a sick inmate at the women's prison in Riverside, recently wrote to a friend that she isn't receiving necessary care, though she has shortness of breath, coughing and chest pains.

Elizabeth Gransee, spokeswoman for the California Correctional Health Care Services, which provides medical care inside prisons, said the agency "takes these allegations very seriously, but that "CIW has no substantial delays in medication administration and only two active COVID cases."

On Tuesday, Graham claimed that medical staff had failed to bring her prescribed electrolyte drinks, and when her cellmates complained, "medical refused to come," she wrote.

"The nurses are so behind because there are soo many medical emergencies," Graham wrote. "I have seen 4 people leave on a stretcher to the hospital."

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