As COVID-19 Crisis Rages Inside San Quentin, Cries For Help Grow Louder

An outside view of San Quentin State Prison, where COVID-19 has infected more than 1,300 prisoners.
Photo credit Kathy Novak/KCBS Radio
By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

Activists and politicians gathered outside San Quentin State Prison on Thursday demanding the governor release more prisoners amid the COVID-19 crisis

In doing so, they relayed messages from some of the more than 1,300 inmates who are infected.

Shawanda Scott goes by Mama Bear. She has son in San Quentin. 

Outside the gates, she gave a tearful plea.

"They’re dying in there," she said. "Free my baby. I can take of him."

#SanQuentin is in a humanitarian crisis that was wholly avoidable. California must now take swift, decisive action tosave lives, protect health, uplift humanity and #StopSanQuentinOutbreak@Scott_Wiener@Ash_Kalra@AsmPhilTing @MarcLevine @BrendonWoodsPD @ellabakercenter

— Rob Bonta (@RobBontaCA) July 9, 2020

Illustrating that San Quentin is not closed off from the outside, dozens of cars drove in and out of the prison as the event was being held.

James King was once incarcerated at the infamous prison and is now a campaigner with the Ella Baker Center For Human Rights. He read a statement from Thanh Tran, who is sick inside.

"This is serious stuff (with the) prospect of people reoffending," the governor said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

He said he’s working to reduce the overcrowded prison to just under 100% capacity. It's over 130% capacity now. State data shows 1,320 inmate infections and seven deaths related to COVID-19 within the walls of San Quentin. Several staff have also been stricken with the virus.

"What I can’t do is release people to the streets and sidewalks and call that compassion," he said. "(It’s) not something that i will do. I want to make sure that people have support when they get out."

State Sen. Scott Weiner, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, and Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Marc Levine were among those in attendance at Thursday's event outside the prison.