Inside the state prison system’s Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Kings County, David Cauthen has spent nearly five weeks on a hunger strike to protest what he sees as indifference and ineptitude by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at stopping a coronavirus outbreak there that has infected more than 1,089 inmates and killed one in recent days.
“Officers, nurses and even doctors only wear masks when it is convenient,” he stated in an email, “and the only time it is convenient for them is when the facility has visitors.”
Nearby in Fresno County, Dist. Atty. Lisa Smittcamp is equally unhappy with how state prison officials are handling the virus behind bars. Her jail, she said, was overwhelmed with convicted inmates who normally would be moved to state prisons but who were now stuck in limbo as prison officials again halted those transfers Wednesday. With limited space in county jails, she said, people arrested are often quickly released to keep the local facility at a safe capacity.
“You cannot shut off the prisons,” Smittcamp said. “One hundred percent, it has impacted public safety.”
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