Remember when, on July 10, Gov. Newsom announced the release of up to 8,000 people by late August? And remember when I said it was too little, too late, too reactive, and too obsequious to public opinion?
It’s now mid-September, and it’s time to see these releases. The picture of occupancy in California prisons as of yesterday’s count (the weekly count happens on Wednesday) is at the top of this page. If you wish to look at CDCR’s original data, from which I compiled the above, it’s right here.
We’ve seen an overall reduction to 96,827 total–here’s a great piece by the Chron’s Bob Egelko to give you some historical perspective on how we got there–but how that affects your prison experience or your exposure to COVID depends on where you are. More than half of the CDCR institutions are still in the red with above-capacity populations. Others are hovering at or neat 100%, which is a big improvement, but still very crowded and doesn’t do much for social distancing. And, for San Quentin and some other prisons, the reduction to 100% will not offset the basic architecture of the prison, which is dilapidated and lacks ventilation. Moreover, consider the bottleneck in county jails, and the extent to which transfers from jails might offset this population reduction.
State courts (and federal courts, though their hands are largely tied due to the limitations of the Prison Litigation Reform Act) must act to provide relief. As you see, there’s no safe destination.