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Advocates Successfully Push California to Collect COVID-19 Data in Jails, Call on Governor to Take Further Action

Jail Door. Source: Sacramento Bee

Source: Sacramento Bee

CJCJ and our partners have successfully pushed California to begin collecting COVID-19 data in jails and juvenile facilities. Since early April, 30+ organizations across the California have called for state leaders to act. Now, the state is taking first steps to track COVID-19 testing. This will help us to understand the scope of COVID-19 infection and protect those inside. CJCJ thanks all of our partners who supported this campaign.

COVID-19 threatens the safety of approximately 53,000 Californians confined in county jails and juvenile facilities. The alarming spread of COVID-19 in our state prison system also exists in county facilities, but went undetected. Due to a lack of centralized COVID-19 data reporting, families and advocates have been forced to piece together media reports, press releases, and anecdotal stories to track outbreaks.

California Begins Collecting COVID-19 Data in Local Correctional Facilities

After months of advocacy by CJCJ and our partners, California's Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) has announced they will launch a COVID-19 data dashboard on July 31. BSCC is one of California’s leading criminal justice agencies and is responsible for facility inspections, data collection, grant-making, and much more. The BSCC repeatedly refused to collect COVID-19 data in April, May, and June.

This dashboard will feature facility-level weekly data on new positive tests and deaths for both incarcerated individuals and staff. As of July 20, the agency has requested these data on a weekly basis and also asks for a one-time cumulative submission of this information to date. BSCC also asks facility health care providers to ensure they immediately report case-level COVID-19 data to county public health agencies. In an alarming admission, the BSCC has reviewed the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange (CalREDIE) and concludes that detention facilities are substantially underreporting COVID-19 cases. 

Governor Newsom Must Take Further Action

This is an important step to address COVID-19, but not the final step. CJCJ's Director of Policy and Development Brian Goldstein explained to The Sacramento Bee: “Now California must act quickly to track the scope of COVID-19 infections, to inspect these facilities and protect those inside. The health and safety of thousands of people who are incarcerated is at stake."

We continue our call for California Governor Gavin Newsom to tell the BSCC to gather more data on COVID-19 cases inside these facilities and begin facility inspections immediately. These additional data include the total number of tests within a facility and the use of quarantine/isolation. 

We are also alarmed that the BSCC halted inspections of all facilities—relying on “desk audits” to evaluate facility policies. The lack of centralized information gathering has prevented our state from saving lives by coordinating responses to COVID-19 inside local facilities.

Together, we pushed California to begin tracking COVID-19 in jails and juvenile facilities. This is an important step as we continue our collective fight to protect all Californians.

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