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3 More San Quentin Inmates Die Over Weekend Of COVID Complications

SAN QUENTIN (CBS SF) -- Three more inmates at San Quentin State prison died over the weekend from what appear to be complications related to COVID-19, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Two San Quentin inmates died on Saturday and the third died on Sunday, each at outside hospitals, CDCR said. No additional information about the inmates was forthcoming because of individual medical privacy concerns.

The three weekend deaths bring the San Quentin coronavirus death toll to nine since the COVID-19 outbreak began last month,. Six inmates sentenced to California's death row have died. Three death row inmates -- Dewayne Carey, Scott Erskine and Manuel Alvarez -- have been confirmed as victims of the illness. The cause of deaths of two other condemned inmates were still pending confirmation from the Marin County coroner's office.

More than 2,400 people at state prisons currently have active infections among a total of 6,289 cases as of Monday morning, according to data from CDCR. At least 33 inmates have died. San Quentin has the most active cases by far with nearly 1,500 cases, about half of those cases within the last two weeks. More than 700 CDCR staff have also contracted the virus.

Dozens of critically ill inmates -- many among the old and frail from San Quentin's Death Row -- remain in local hospitals. Some are under ICU care with ventilators.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that roughly 8,000 prisoners will be released to try to contain the COVID-19 outbreak at state prisons.

Those who have been advocating for early release of certain inmates say this is a step in the right direction but only a hundred or so are expected to be released from San Quentin, where more than 1,750 inmates have been infected since coronavirus outbreak began weeks ago.

Jacques Verduin, the founder of GRIP -- Guiding Rage Into Power -- helps inmates transition to life on the outside. Over the past eight years, GRIP has graduated 913 with 321 of them being released. Only one has returned to prison.

So far, not one GRIP graduate has been granted early release. The governor's plan does specify low-level offenders with 180 days or less remaining in their sentences and those who are at risk of COVID-19-related complications

"We are evaluating every prisoner for release that they are on a pathway to rehabilitation that they are non-violent, non-sex offenders, non-serious offender that have a place to go," said assemblyman Marc Levine.

Levine, whose district includes Marin County, feels it took too long for the governor to take action, especially at San Quentin.

"I asked for this in April, it's something that must be done," Levine added.

Those who have connections to inmates serving at San Quentin agree. Many describe dire conditions with inadequate medical care.

"One of my dearest friends -- a mentor of mine -- is in a ventilator right now," said James King, a former San Quentin inmate.


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