Sam Levin Profile picture
17 Dec, 11 tweets, 3 min read
A short thread on the California prison system's Covid catastrophe + vaccine access:

Advocates + experts are arguing that CDCR must urgently make vaccines available to incarcerated people, mandate vaccines for guards, AND do mass releases of elderly/vulnerable. Here's why ⬇️
CDCR has a long history of severe medical neglect + abuse, including experimenting on incarcerated people. Some will likely be reluctant or scared to take a vaccine. This mistrust is compounded by the fact that CDCR has spread Covid across the system, infecting 31,000+ people.
Incarcerated people in CA have witnessed CDCR’s botched Covid response, which has allowed guards to bring Covid to every single prison, leading to mass and worsening outbreaks and 104 deaths. So why would people inside trust a vaccine? says @jamesking0314:
“Their relationship to the vaccine has to be situated within the context of CDCR’s history of not only failing to meet the medical needs of incarcerated people, but actually causing harm ... They are still making medical decisions that are not based upon people’s medical needs.”
The history of medical harm in CDCR is recent, including mass illnesses + death from valley fever, and the scandal of forced sterilizations, notes @aviramh. Now Covid:

“At every turn, the message has been, ‘We don’t care about your lives, we are here to punish you.’”
That legacy + this year's mishandling of Covid will pose a huge obstacle to getting ppl inside CDCR to trust the vaccine, says @aviramh. She argues vaccines must be combined w/ mass releases: "The trust breakdown is just so profound that some gesture of goodwill has to come in."
Even if vaccines are available behind bars, CDCR will remain overcrowded + Covid will continue to spread, says @jamesking0314: "It still wouldn't mitigate the underlying health crisis in our state prisons." He and others are urging mass release of elderly and vulnerable to start.
There's also documented evidence that guards have repeatedly refused to wear masks inside, likely contributing to Covid spread. Some incarcerated ppl have also been punished for trying to disinfect their cells. In this context, vaccines should be required for guards, experts say.
So far, CA has not said whether incarcerated people will get vaccines in the early phase. CDCR told me "plans will align with state + health care guidelines for distribution prioritization, and will aim to target frontline workers as well as medically high-risk patients" ...
Meanwhile the crisis continues to escalate, with Covid currently infecting every CA prison. 8,000+ ppl infected in last two weeks. Incarcerated ppl with Covid are stuck in mass quarantines without basic medical help, in regions where hospitals are overflowing with Covid patients.
You can read more about the thorny questions of vaccine access for incarcerated people and other vulnerable groups in CA, in my latest piece on vaccine distribution, equity and racial justice: theguardian.com/us-news/2020/d…

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More from @SamTLevin

13 Dec
NEW: California is on track to allow mass evictions to begin during the worst phase of the pandemic so far. Millions are at risk, and many more will die of Covid if lawmakers don't pass new tenant protections.

A short thread on what's at stake ⬇️

theguardian.com/us-news/2020/d…
-More than 2 million households said they couldn't pay rent in November, and that # will increase with new shutdowns.

-Tenants owe an estimated $1.7 billion in unpaid rent, and California law currently says they are on the hook for all of it, which will be impossible for many.
Evictions mean more people will die. When other states lifted eviction moratoriums, it led to 433,700 additional Covid cases + 10,700 more fatalities, according to @LeifScience.

Given the scale of the crisis in CA, the fatal consequences will be catastrophic here.
Read 11 tweets
15 Oct
NEW: I interviewed Jackie Lacey + George Gascón about their tight race for LA district attorney, arguably the most important criminal justice election in the US. There are huge differences in their beliefs on incarceration + safety.

Thread on my chats ⬇️

theguardian.com/us-news/2020/o…
LA has the largest jail system in the world + extremely high prison rates. I asked Lacey if the region jails too many people.

She said no, and warned that if she were a less punitive DA, LA would “deteriorate” with the “criminal community” + “predators” flocking to the region.
Lacey has fought for the right to continue prosecuting children under the age of 12, and has continued to try youth as adults. She said this was warranted for some crimes: "You can say, 'Oh you’re incarcerating children!' but that’s not the act of a child or the mind of a child."
Read 19 tweets
22 Sep
NEW: Kao Saelee worked as an incarcerated firefighter in California.

But when his release date came, the state partnered with ICE and transferred him to detention. He now faces deportation to Laos, a country his family fled when he was two years old.

theguardian.com/us-news/2020/s…
Kao, now 41, has been imprisoned since he was a teenager. Even though he completed his sentence and fought wildfires, @GavinNewsom + CDCR handed him over to ICE.

“I paid my debt to society, and I think I should have a chance to be with my family," Kao told me from ICE jail. Image
When his release date came on August 6, Kao's sister was waiting outside the prison to take him home for the first time in two decades. Instead, guards handed Kao over to a private security contractor for ICE who shackled his hands, waist and legs, put him in a van and drove off.
Read 17 tweets
16 Sep
NEW: In Oregon, there is now a confirmed Covid-19 outbreak linked to the evacuation of Coffee Creek prison in the fire zone. Two prisoners have tested positive + Dept of Corrections says they mixed with groups outside of their units during evacuation to Deer Creek, another prison
Here’s part of DOC statement to @TaraHerivel and other attorneys. “Female AIC” refers to an incarcerated woman who tested positive. State is now expediting return of evacuated prisoners to Coffee Creek. Delays in tests results have made this situation more complicated, DOC says. Image
DOC says it appears the two Covid+ prisoners didn’t mix with the population at Deer Ridge, the prison where evacuees were placed. There is still fear about a possible mass outbreak. The fire threat is not over. For thousands of impacted families, this is an unimaginable nightmare
Read 7 tweets
15 Sep
I spoke with men incarcerated at Oregon State Penitentiary, who are stuck in overcrowded facilities in the fire zone + have repeatedly been pepper sprayed. They're begging for help.

Here's a short thread with audio from my prison calls, shared with their permission.

LISTEN ⬇️
Parker, 23: "Pepper spray got on everyone, everyone was coughing and sneezing. I couldn't even take a drink of my water. There was so much in the air. I still have lasting effects. I was scared. I didn't think they would put us in that situation. DOC is supposed to protect us."
John, 44: "It's smoky in here. It's horrible in here. Some of these inmates are elderly, some have heart problems + respiratory problems. This is no place for them. What you're brewing is a perfect storm for violence and pandemonium. How do you plan on protecting these inmates?"
Read 12 tweets
15 Sep
NEW: Oregon prison guards have repeatedly pepper sprayed evacuated prisoners who are trapped in overcrowded facilities and already sick from smoke.

I spoke to folks inside who were sprayed and are struggling to breathe...

theguardian.com/us-news/2020/s…
As fires approached, Oregon crowded four prison populations into one facility, and violence and fights immediately broke out.

The prison responded by repeatedly deploying pepper spray.

"I couldn’t breathe. When I got sprayed, I had to stick my face into a sink to rinse it off”
“The pepper spray got on everyone. Everyone was coughing and sneezing. There was just so much in the air.”

“My eyes and lungs are still burning and soot is still floating all inside the prison."

“These officers just pull out their cans of spray and start spraying everywhere."
Read 11 tweets

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