A few days ago I sort of went ballistic on FB and in email, after posting figures about the CoVid response from CDCR and being castigated by several individuals for being anything from naive for believing CDCR to being a 'stooge' for CDCR. And again, today, after posting the latest reports, I'm flooded by emails and message on FB--'I heard there's X number of cases in XYZ' prison---my friend who know someone who works in (name a city with a prison) says the guys are dying like flies and they're hiding it,' 'we need to demand more tests right now!,' 'why aren't you doing more?'
So let me say this as clearly, as respectfully, but as forcefully as possible: CDCR has lots to answer for, many huge mistakes and stupid moves. But--the department as a whole and certainly individuals at the top levels, are very serious about trying to find every way they can, given the constraints of the prison setting, to make sure inmates and staff are as safe as can be accomplished during this craziness. For the record, I'm not naive about CDCR, not after dealing with successive administrations for 20+ years--pretty well seen and heard it all, my BS meter is well attuned. Nor am I a stooge for CDCR---that idea would probably bring gales of laughter in CDCR HQ..were in some offices I'm pretty much a pariah. And I don't simply take the department at its word.
But, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD please think this stuff through before you jump to conclusions. Rumors are the bane of the prisoner and prison family population and rumors of all kinds are rampant now, on the outside, so the rumor mill on the inside is in overdrive. No, inmates are not dying like flies. No, CDCR is not hiding information.
But also, no, inmates are not going to get alcohol based hand sanitizer--as I mentioned before, it's my prisoner friends who've told me about 4 different ways to extract the alcohol from sanitzer to drink--and yes, someone would do it. No, they probably aren't going to get masks--I've detailed the reasons for this as well, primarily because there aren't enough masks for health workers and the rest of the world--no one can find them. And as for making them and wearing masks--I've mentioned before the security concerns of having prisoners masked--rumors already about some individuals/groups unhappy with other individuals/groups using masks to hide identities during assaults--and the problems of completing a count when you can't see who's who...this is, for better or worse, prison we're talking about.
No, an exception can't be made to allow 'just one' person into visiting or family visiting--how would you decide who that 'just one' was and what if that 'just one' was an asymptomatic carrier? No, tablets and the like aren't going to be immediately distributed--where would they come from and right now, with short staffing (to cut down exposure) and other things to do, it ain't gonna happen. It is less important than some other activities, like moving inmates to provide some separation, mail, chow, and counts.
No, CDCR is not gonna send in crews to clean dorms/ cells--and yes, this was actually suggested by one caller. Merry Maids will not be coming to a prison near you. It has always been the responsibility of the prisoners to keep their areas clean, now more than ever--like the rest of us. From most reports, including lots from prisoners themselves, they are being given soap and cleaning supplies.
And NO, lifers are not going to be summarily granted early release--Governor Newsom has not abandoned all laws and there are only a few legal routes for lifers to be released. And in all honestly, that wouldn't be a good idea--ask a few lifers for their opinions on this.
As for more CoVid testing--unless you believe the idiot holding 'press conferences' in Washington (LSA is non-partisan. I, however, am highly partisan.) you'll know there are simply not enough tests for this virus available anywhere in the nation, not everyone can, as yet, just ask for a CoVid test and get one..testing in prisons right now follows the protocol of the rest of the world--you get a test if the medical community thinks you're likely to be infected. And remember, the medical personnel in prison who are making these decisions are there, in person, so it would behoove them to be as responsive as possible to finding those who might actually have the disease.
CDCR is reacting as quickly, creatively and openly as I have ever seen them act or react in more than 20 years of all kinds of emergencies and problems. Officials are taking this thing seriously and looking for solutions to the unique issues that present themselves in a prison population--always remember, this is a prison population we're talking about, which means all sorts of laws that cannot be avoided or overlooked, security concerns for both inmates (who don't all like each other) and the public. Please think these things through. CDCR is NOT out to kill your loved one, allow this virus to proliferate in the prisons (they are there too, ya know) and they know they can't hide the eventual results. Are some of the staff (read guards) idiots? Yeah, what else is new. But frankly so are some prisoners and so are some of us, especially when we over react.
Before you jump up and down, asking what am I doing (working all weekend, for one thing), be proactive yourself. Think about what you're asking-does it make sense, is it even possible? Monday I'll be sending out a resource list, with agencies, contacts and numbers you can contact for concerns about individual issues in individual prisons--be aware, it may take awhile to get an answer, everyone is pretty busy and distracted now. Be persistent and keep asking, but be reasonable. Just because you want something for your loved one in prison doesn't mean it's likely to happen or even possible--think!
And what am I/we/LSA doing? Checking every resource and source--we have high contacts in low places and low contacts in high places and even some high contacts in high places and we're checking them all. We're trying to bring you factual information so you can feel as confident as possible about what's going on inside the walls. We try to do the same for prisoners when they contact us--just the facts, ma'am. But, I/we can't become the personal advocate for each and every one of you. To date, in the last 10 days, nearly 100 people have contacted me about how can I help them be sure their inmate is released. I can't. I won't. I will not underwrite the release of any prisoner I don't personally know and can vouch for. Remember, I meet these guys by the hundreds, and while most of them are great and well on the path to rehabilitation and pro-social lives......well, as noted, my BS meter is well attuned.
Which is why I will not be signing onto general calls for mass and immediate release of any particular cohort, defined simply either by age or crime. Reentry, after being gone from society for many years, takes considerable support and right now transitional houses in many areas are closed to intake, either for lack of beds or fear of contagion--where will these purported new, mass releases go? Many don't have family to return to, who will assist them with medical needs (not their parole officer) and who will help them cope with the new world--the things transitional housing is good at? We can't just release them to homelessness.
We work hard all the time to help lifers understand how to become, and to become, suitable for parole, so they can return home and maintain the amazing record of lifers--less than 1% recidivism rate, over decades. And we work had to try and help families and the general public understand the process too--and that includes what's going on now. Please stop and think before you buy into rumors, outlandish sounding supposed events or situations and before you demand actions that simply aren't viable in the setting. Look for the resource list Monday, use it, become a reasonable, informed and pro-active voice. And think--please think it through. One day, when this crisis is in the rear view mirror, I'll write a book--dark humor for sure, of the shake-your-head, I-can't-believe it variety--but all true.