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Vigil held to support inmates as prison coronavirus infections rise

A crowd gathered outside the home of the CDCR secretary after 50 inmates across the state have died due to coronavirus.

NATOMAS, Sacramento — Protesters gathered Thursday night, demanding the release of inmates as coronavirus outbreaks continue to pop up in California prisons.

Several rallies were held Thursday, including one outside the home oRalph Diaz, Secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The rallies come as more than 50 inmates across the state have lost their lives to COVID-19. Many of the people at the vigil were family members of inmates who worry their loved one could be added to that count.

“Anybody, that’s got anybody in prison knows that it’s a petridish,” Joanne Scheer, whoss only son is in prison on a life sentence without the possibility of parole, said.

Locally, an outbreak has hit Folsom State Prison. More than 100 inmates are sick and one worker has died. A group made its way out to the prison Thursday to protest, demanding that the prison include more testing and routine temperature checks.

"At the end of the day, our loved ones that are incarcerated matter, their lives matter, but also the staff have a family to go home to as well,” protest organizer Dawn Marie said. “You know, they have a job, but they have family and loved ones that care for them too."

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says it’s sending medical strike teams to Folsom State Prison to improve quarantine efforts. Tents have been set up outside to isolate infected patients. The prison is also evaluating other areas that can be used for isolation or quarantine.

Those efforts are in addition to the state releasing thousands of inmates in recent months to help free up space.

But protesters at Thursday night’s vigil say that’s not enough, including Steven Green, a man whose prison sentence was commuted by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018.

“It's impossible to physical distance yourself in prison there's just too many people inside,” Green said “The amount of people they're releasing it's just a little drop in the bucket.”

More demonstrations are planned Friday at other state prisons.

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Coronavirus cases are rising in California state prisons