San Francisco Public Defender Calls For Fewer Inmates Following First Jail Coronavirus Case

KCBS Radio Overnight News
April 17, 2020 - 11:22 am
A fence surrounds the Cook County jail complex on April 09, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. With nearly 400 cases of COVID-19 having been diagnosed among the inmates and employees, the jail is nation’s largest-known source of coronavirus infections.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju is "deeply concerned" to learn that an inmate in the County Jail has tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a statement released to KCBS Radio on Thursday, the Public Defender said any positive coronavirus case poses a larger threat to the jail system as a whole.

"This is the exact scenario my team has fought day in and day out to avoid by reducing the jail population," Raju said. "That this confirmed case comes after a substantial jail population reduction demonstrates why we have not been content to rest on the tremendous work done thus far, and why we continue to fight for people to be released."

Raju wrote that it is vital that the jail population reduction work not only continue, but speed up.

"Despite the reductions in the jail population, multiple strangers still share sinks, toilets, and bunk beds," Raju said. "These conditions prevent social distancing and proper hygiene and continue to be dangerous for everyone living or working inside the jails."

Read Raju's entire statement here:

The Public Defender is calling on the courts and the Sheriff to continue releasing as many individuals from the jail as possible.

He wants to ensure that inmates who remain incarcerated are provided personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, soap and hand sanitizer.

"Those housed in our jails deserve to be safe and treated with dignity both during their incarceration and upon release," Raju wrote. "This is also why my office has worked hard to ensure that every one of our clients released is met with support and the safest available place to go."

The Public Defender is asking San Francisco’s Human Services Agency and the Department of Public Health to “immediately” secure more than 8,000 additional hotel rooms for the homeless and people coming out of the jail system without a place to go.

The Sheriff's office said it has been preparing for a positive coronavirus case for the past month, with new bookings isolated from the general prison population for 14 days.

Right now, the County Jail's capacity is at a historic low - 733 people are currently detained, down 35% from the daily average in January.

The inmate who tested positive was only in custody for 24 hours.