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

Kathy Novak
July 09, 2020 - 5:15 pm

    Related: The State Of California: The Crisis At San Quentin

    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."

    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.

    "I’m begging you to hear us and please Gavin Newsom save our lives we are dying in here," King read.

    An aerial view San Quentin State Prison on July 08, 2020 in San Quentin, California. Over 1,400 inmates and staff at San Quentin State Prison have become infected with coronavirus COVID-19 after inmates from a Chino, California prison.
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Gov. Gavin Newsom said he’s personally going through a list of people who can be released.

    "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.