Families Upset As Access To Phones Cut Off For San Quentin Inmates In Effort To Slow Coronavirus Spread

A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officer wears a protective mask as he stands guard at the front gate of San Quentin State Prison on June 29, 2020 in San Quentin, California.
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

Another prisoner from the California Institution for Men in Chino has died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the total to 17 at that facility.

It was a transfer of men from that prison sparked the outbreak at San Quentin State Prison, where data from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows 1,302 prisoners are currently infected with the coronavirus. While the infection rate at the prison seems to have slowed with 502 new cases over the last 14 days, 11 San Quentin inmates have died from complications due to COVID-19.

In all, 36 prisoners have now died from the virus throughout the state's prison system.

"When we talked, they started passing out memos stating that there was not going to be any phone calls...until further notice," Archuleta said.

In a written update, the Department of Corrections said the policy change is part of limiting movement and interaction to only critical contact. They added the decision was not taken lightly and that the department understands the burden it places on incarcerated people and their families.

"He was really frustrated," Archuleta told KCBS Radio. "We’re their lifelines. Some days when they’re having bad days, we’re probably the only ones that can change that day for them when they talk to us."

And she says it’s hard on her, too. 

"The unknown, like, when will be able to talk to him again," Archuleta said. "Is he okay? Does he have food?Is he eating right?"

On that front, at least, she said the news has been better since an outside vendor started supplying three daily meals.