Today was the last day for the Attorney General’s office to petition the Supreme Court for review, and unsurprisingly, they went for it. If you want to read the entire thing, here it is, in its 30-page glory–just be sure you’re sitting first:
Here are some of the highlights. The petition frames the legal question as follows:
May a court hold that prison officials, facing the challenges of the emerging novel coronavirus pandemic, were deliberately indifferent to an elderly inmate’s medical needs where the evidence showed officials operated under the authority and supervision of a federal Receiver with responsibility over the prison medical system, and consistent with the Receiver’s directives and guidance, undertook a suite of reasonable measures to arrest the spread of the virus, including reducing the inmate population, but had not at the time of hearing reduced the prison’s total inmate population by 50 percent? And may a court on that basis order officials to reduce the total prison population by 50 percent?
In other words, there are two things going on here: (1) they argue that the presumably “reasonable steps” they took were sufficient, and (2) they’re dumping the blame for this on the Receiver.
Of course, the absurdity of this is twofold. First, by their own admission, the Receiver is not the only responsible party here (the petition argues that they share the responsibility with the Receiver.) I suppose they’ve finally found an opportunity to try and throw Kelso under the bus; I assume the Receivership will claim that the prison was deliberately indifferent, the prison will argue that the Receivership was deliberately indifferent–and they will both be right.
But then things get truly. bizarre when the petition moves on to describe the “reasonable actions” CDCR took:
These actions included suspending intake from county jail, canceling visitation statewide, canceling large events and prison tours, distributing fact sheets, posters, and information to the inmate population, mandatory verbal and temperature screening for all persons entering prisons, and limiting movement between prisons, among others.
This is really rich. Wow–they hung posters? Such prescience! Such diligence! Such care for human life! As to “limiting movement between prisons,” we all know that the movement they failed to limit was the actual reason for this catastrophe, so forgive me for not bursting into a standing ovation. The cancelation of visitation is nothing to brag about–they would not have had to punish people in prison and their families if they did what they were supposed to. And as to the “verbal and temperature screening,” they have some nerve continuing the web of deception they pulled before the Court of Appeal, but of course now we know this is all fiction, because of the Inspector General’s first report. Note that they at least had the sense to refrain from lying about their flawed PPE practices, for which they were skewered by the legislature just a few days ago. They also list the release programs, which were insufficient at the time and also turned out to be largely fictional–out of 6,000 cases they reviewed for suitability, they found only 44 (!!!!!).
Again, we are treated to arguments that 50% is too much without the factual evidence that they didn’t bother to provide in the Court of Appeal, including the new information that they “acted under the advice of different experts” of which they said not a peep in the previous proceedings.
The rest of this is essentially a sob story about how unexpected, surprising, and overwhelming this crisis was, which apparently means the standard for deliberate indifference drops–as if we haven’t had evidence since 1918 of how outbreaks can ravage prisons or decades-long experience examining the connection between prison population density and health outcomes in every possible court.
This would be funny, but there’s absolutely nothing to laugh about. As the AG’s office spends its time and money congratulating CDCR for their “reasonable measures”, COVID-19 is ravaging our prison system again. In the last 14 days, the system has seen a whooping 1,474 new cases. There are huge outbreaks at CVSP (222 cases), CTF (269 cases), HDSP (283 cases), and SATF (433 cases.) There are new outbreaks in SOL (9 cases), CAL (49 cases), and CEN (28 cases.) Whatever they claim they’ve done with “limiting movement” is a blatant falsehood: the total prison population is up to what it was 7 weeks ago. The new Covid cases just in the past 2 weeks make up 1.48% of the entire prison population. This is over 6 times the per-capita rate statewide. The dissonance and immorality are breathtaking.
The Supreme Court has 90 days to decide whether to take this up, so now we wait.