It’s been a very busy week, but an accomplished one: Chad Goerzen and I finished writing FESTER and sent the manuscript off to University of California Press. We are very proud of the book and look forward to the reviews, which are sure to make it even stronger.

Among the many things we do in this book is a model of prison-community transmissivity. Because the correlation between prison and community cases (which we were tracking here throughout the pandemic) is bidirectional, we rely on the Bradford Hill factors for causal inference in epidemiology. Among the tools we use is a counterfactual model, in which we create concentric rings around each of the following: every correctional facility (e.g., San Quentin); every surrounding community (e.g., Marin County); and the wider community beyond. We can add and subtract rings to show the effect of infections in one ring on the others.

Our model shows that, due to the extraordinarily high prevalence of COVID-19 cases inside CDCR facilities, particularly during the year 2020, these facilities had a large influence on their regions, far more than their relatively small population and isolation would suggest. In Marin County, we predict that avoiding the Quentin outbreaks would have prevented 58 deaths, 22% of the COVID-19 deaths; and throughout the states, without the outbreaks in CDCR facilities, we could have prevented 11,974 deaths, or 18.5% of the COVID-19 deaths in California for this period. Furthermore, the outbreaks in San Quentin and CDCR occurred before vaccinations were publicly available and before effective treatments for COVID-19 were developed, making them particularly high impact on mortality.

In the next few weeks, I will give a few talks in which I’ll elaborate on the model and on the other tools we used to expose the experience and roots of what we consider a very serious human rights crime. On September 13 I’m giving a virtual talk at the University of Arizona, and on October 10 an in-person talk at UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Law & Society. I’ll advertise these via the Events tab on the blog and would love to see my readers in the audience to discuss what we can learn from this disaster.

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