Prison Outbreak: Violent Crime Victim Calls For Mass Releases

After living through violent crime, Lupe Angulo discovered restorative justice and now advocates for mass release
Photo credit Kathy Novak/KCBS Radio
By KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM
All this week, KCBS Radio is examining the COVID outbreaks at California prisons. In part one we heard what it is like to be sick with COVID-19 at San Quentin. In part two we looked at what has changed inside prisons to prevent similar outbreaks. In part three of our series, KCBS Radio's Kathy Novak speaks to a victim of violent crime about why she supports calls for mass releases. 

Seven years ago, Lupe Angulo and her fiancé had just arrived in Gilroy to visit family. 

"Gunshots rang out, and unfortunately he was shot once and he passed away in my arms that night."

He was apparently caught in the crossfire of gang violence. The day after the funeral, Lupe found out she was pregnant. 

"I felt like they robbed me of having my partner and my daughter of having her father," she told KCBS Radio. "I just felt like I was robbed of something very special in my life, and I was angry."

So she said she understands why some victims of crime have difficulty with the idea of mass releases from prisons.

"Of all people, I should be against it. But I’m not."

She said her fiancé’s killers were convicted of murder and sentenced to 83 years to life. They were people of color and teenagers.

"They’re lacking community resources. They’re lacking advocates. They’re lacking mentors."

Lupe said she did a lot of work learning about restorative justice. Through that work, she found love with a new partner. 

"His name is Thanh Tran."

Yes, the same Thanh Tran we met earlier in this series. He is currently incarcerated in San Quentin. 

"I have a partner that loves me to death and she’s willing to help out in any way she can," he said. 

"It might be surprising to some people," Lupe explained, "But when I started doing advocacy work, we met and love transpired."

So now Lupe finds herself protesting with others whose loved ones are caught up in San Quentin’s COVID outbreak. "It’s been stressful. It’s been extremely frightening."

They have been cut off from visits and often struggle to get any medical information as they hear news of the rising death toll. "We’re just sitting on pins and needles like could that be him? Am I going to get a phone call? It’s a nightmare," she said.

Now, like the doctors who visited the prison, their central call is for more releases, beyond the 8,000 people the governor says could be out by the end of the month.

Of those calls, Gov. Gavin Newsom said last month, "I hope they’re being thoughtful and considerate of not only the victims but the prospects of people reoffending."

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin added release plans should be more ambitious and include people who have served long sentences and are statistically less likely to reoffend.

"Over 90% of people who are incarcerated will be released at some point," he told KCBS Radio. "So the question is not if, but when and how. And so we need to ensure that we are releasing people under conditions that will allow them to successfully reintegrate."

DA Boudin has been working on resentencing cases, consulting with crime victims like Lupe.

"These guys are eventually going to join us again," said Lupe. "So I would rather them be prepared and rehabilitated than not."

In part four, we’ll meet some of the men who have been released from San Quentin during the COVID-19 outbreak.