COVID-19 is rapidly spreading in prisons throughout the country and our state. In CA, the number of positive cases among people in prisons is 450% higher than the state overall. There have been nearly 10,000 cases and 55 deaths.
UCI’s department of Criminology, Law & Society (in collaboration with faculty from Sociology and Nursing) is spearheading efforts to equip people in California prisons with critical supplies needed to stay safe during the pandemic. We hope many of those we reach will become Underground Scholars (formerly incarcerated students on the UC campuses, as profiled in the Confined During COVID video), as UC Irvine is developing a UC BA pathway for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students.
Our goal is to raise $10,000 to provide PPE, care packages, and other resources to people who are incarcerated in CA prisons. These donations will support efforts to stop COVID-19 from spreading throughout our state’s prisons, affecting our most vulnerable community members, employees and staff in prisons, and surrounding communities.
Where will your donations go? We are working with the CA CDCR, who operates state prisons, to provide PPE and other critical supplies support for incarcerated people. If we fulfill those needs, we will provide PPE in care packages to people recently released from CA prisons. The dire situation of COVID-19 in prisons is a public health crisis, a racial justice crisis, and a community crisis.
This is a public health crisis. Prisons are even more vulnerable to COVID-19 than nursing homes and hospitals. Prisoners in California have high rates of underlying health conditions that are risks for COVID-19, like hypertension and obesity. These conditions are both caused and exacerbated by the conditions of confinement. Prisons in California are over capacity, for example by 130% in Chuckawalla State Prison and 142% in Avenal, making it extraordinarily difficult to implement any social distancing measures. Furthermore, prisons are under-resourced: employees inside these facilities have expressed concerns about shortages of basic cleaning supplies and PPE, in addition to officers and staff being overworked and under extraordinary stress.
This is a racial justice crisis. Prisons are a last stop along a path of unequal educational systems, racially discriminatory labor markets, and aggressive policing tactics. Nationally, Black people are incarcerated in state prisons at six times the rate of White people, and Latinx people are incarcerated at three times the rate of White people. In California, Black adults are incarcerated at rates that are higher than any other state, with 12% having ever been to prison.
This is a community crisis. People in prisons are mothers and fathers. They are sons, daughters, and siblings. They have families who are worried and angry. Prisons are also not physically isolated facilities, and COVID-19 outbreaks have spread to California towns and cities through the officers and employees who travel to and from work every day.
For further information and updates about this campaign, what is happening in California prisons, and how you can help, please visit sites.uci.edu/confinedduringcovid.