Activists push for the release of vulnerable inmates from prisons amid Coronavirus concerns

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For the first time an inmate in California's prison system has tested positive for carbon nineteen five prison workers around the state have also tested positive none at the same institution as the inmate keeping the corona virus pandemic under control require social distancing and individual sanitation that are hard to accomplish in prison earlier today KQED's Marisa Lagos spoke with Scott Kernan the former chief of the California department of corrections and rehabilitation she asked current and what needs to be done to protect prisoners from a massive virus outbreak well I think it's inevitable given you know the extent of the virus across the world I think it's it's inevitable that it's going to take off in the presence of Saddam if you think you have ships are Petri dish that prisons are even more so than mass humanities so I'm you know very concerned about my colleagues in the inmates and their families jails and prisons across the country yeah I mean we know particularly in California our prisons are overcrowded there at about hundred and thirty percent of capacity I we've seen some civil rights groups I make some pretty strong calls for more than a week for the governor can to consider releasing people who already have release dates in the coming weeks and months they've also like to see people who are older than sixty five or medically vulnerable get released do you support these types of efforts well I I think they should you know Dennis if you're not overreacting and reacting to the extent of the crisis I think they ought to be looking at all options to reduce density nine inch your point about a hundred thirty percent of our product well that's true in the overall system in the prisons including a women's prisons for example are are upwards of a hundred fifty hundred sixty percent overcrowded you mentioned you know the facts that we have program suspended in jails you know if people are limited and movements even if they're not infected because they're trying to to make sure that people don't spread this what kind of safety and mental health concerns do you have because if we're looking at extended periods of these kind of walk downs we see riots or other of people there's no doubt that the potential for unrest as there is people are not confined to the course without control we know that across the system in the inmates are talking about on rafts we've seen some tangible evidence of the inmates not going to find for a medical officials in our jails after sex because they don't want to be quarantined it is a complex system what about more broadly than that the medical system in the inadequate medical care was the reason essentially that the court stepped in and and including the Supreme Court we have made some strides in that area but how confident are you that our prison medical system can handle an onslaught of these case as well you know I I I think we have some of the best correctional medical and mental health professionals in the country that may be a little biased from experience it's not given to any given day there to stress to the Max to provide court required services to the population I just got to believe that as a system progresses that they're going to be even stressed to the Max yeah we hear about hospitals and you know potentially over one well in a lot of inmates thousands in fact go out for for their medical care into to our hospitals so there's there's some logistical issues that are going on all of these jails and prisons including she she are that are that are very worst that's former CDC are director Scott Kernan speaking with KQED's Marisa

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