My UCSF colleagues Brie Williams and David Sears, among others, are at the helm of Amend, an organization seeking to transform the toxic correctional culture inside U.S. prisons and jails to reduce its debilitating health effects. They partner with correctional institutions to provide a multi-year immersive program drawing on public health-oriented correctional practices from Norway and elsewhere to inspire changes in correctional cultures and create environments that can improve the health of people living and working in American correctional facilities.
Recently, Drs. Williams and Sears gave a talk at the UCSF Town Hall. You can hear and see their findings here (from minute 19:00 to 34:00.) The team visited San Quentin on June 13 and were horrified by what they found:
The AMEND team made a series of recommendations. I recommend reading their entire report, which details possible isolation sections within the prison, as well as the importance of creating a true sense of partnership with the prison population instead of frightening them even more.
Among the AMEND recommendations was the urgent need to prioritize tests coming from San Quentin, which now take an astounding 5-6 days to come back positive or negative. They also noticed a disturbing neglect in staffing shifts, where staff was not “cohorted” with the same people, but mixed around to mill with new people every day. This was the situation when they visited:
Now, of course, things are more dire; we already have five confirmed deaths. But, and this is important, the picture we are getting is partial and misleading, because testing is so lacking and inconsistent. This gives you a comparison of cumulative testing and the testing positive rate (TPR). You’ll notice that the testing has slowed down, and there’s very little in the way of repeat testing.
If anyone reading this is in a position to help AMEND, either by offering your medical skills or in another way, here’s the contact information: