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California prisons halt visits due to coronavirus risk

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says that the visitor ban is a precaution and that there haven't been any confirmed cases in the state prison system.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says that the visitor ban is a precaution and that there haven’t been any confirmed cases in the state prison system.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

California prisons will stop visits in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement late Wednesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said that the move was a precaution and that there had been no confirmed cases in the sprawling system.

“CDCR values visitation as an essential part of rehabilitation, but at this time the Department must make difficult decisions in order to protect the health and wellness of all who live in, work in, and visit state prisons,” the statement said.

Volunteers will still have access to the prisons. “At this time, we are still operating normal rehabilitative programming,” said Corrections Department spokeswoman Dana Simas.

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Inmate advocates have voiced concern that the congregate prison living conditions would make the spread of the virus unstoppable once behind bars.

“It would not surprise me if there are undiagnosed as-of-yet-cases, because my layperson’s opinion is that there are plenty of such cases out in the ‘free world,’ given the very limited testing available and relatively mild symptoms in what apparently is the vast majority of cases,” said Steven Fama with the Prison Law Office.

“Also, until this past weekend, it was tough to have a diagnosed case because tests were very limited. That’s now changing, and CDCR medical, I’m told, can now can take samples on site and send them to their contracted private lab.”


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