With the number of state prison employees testing positive for coronavirus reaching 33, including 11 at the California Institution for Men in Chino, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)announced Tuesday additional plans to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

One inmate at the Chino prison, six inmates at the California State Prison-Los Angeles County in Lancaster and one at the North Kern State Prison have tested positive among the 279 inmates across the state who have been tested for coronavirus as of Friday morning. Eleven inmates at the California Institution for Men and five California Institution for Women in Chino inmates have been tested.

“The measures will increase both capacity and physical space at the state’s prisons, which will allow the department to increase physical distancing, and assist it with isolation and quarantine efforts of suspected or positive COVID-19 cases,” prison officials said.

The new measures are:

•Mandatory questions and temperature screenings for staff before they enter any institution and CDCR work sites.

•Suspension of intake from county jails, projected to reduce the population by 3,000 within 30 days.

•Suspension of visitation. Inmates will get additional free phone calls made available through a deal with the inmate telephone network provider.

•Suspension of access by volunteers and rehabilitative program providers.

•Suspension of inmate movement other than for critical purposes.

•Measures to support increased physical distancing, including reducing the number of inmates who use common spaces at the same time.

•Reinforced commitment to hygiene both institutional and personal, including greater availability of soap and hand sanitizer.

The plan also includes possibly releasing at least 3,500 eligible inmates with 60 days or less on their sentences.

Inmates must not be serving time for a violent crime, including sex offenses or domestic violence. 

“The plan also includes making more use of the state’s private and public Community Correctional Facilities, as well as maximizing open spaces in prisons, such as gymnasiums, to increase capacity and inmate movement options,” prison officials said.

CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said prison officials are not taking the new measures lightly.

“Our first commitment at CDCR is ensuring safety,” he said. “However, in the face of a global pandemic, we must consider the risk of COVID-19 infection as a grave threat to safety, too.”

The first two California Institution for Men employees to test positive for coronavirus were reported March 22. Two more were reported a few days later and seven more since March 27.

Names, ranks, ages, cities of residences and the counties in which they tested positive were not announced.

Four employees at the California State Prison-Sacramento and Folsom State Prison tested positive for coronavirus; two each at Wasco State Prison and Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in Corcoran; and one each at the California Health Care Facility, California State Prison-Los Angeles County, a worksite location in Riverside County and Sacramento County, Central California Women's Facility, Northern California Youth Correctional Center, Correctional Training Center in Galt, Salinas Valley State Prison, San Quentin State Prison and Valley State Prison.

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