California corrections officials say they will try to “fully comply” with a federal court order to move up to 2,600 inmates at risk of contracting valley fever out of harms way.
Tuesday’s announcement follows an order late last month by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, after a court-appointed receiver declared that African Americans and other prisoners with elevated risk of dying from the soil-borne fungus should be immediately moved.
Henderson was critical of California’s handling of valley fever outbreaks within its prisons, saying the death of 36 prisoners over the last six years “clearly demonstrated [the state’s] unwillingness to respond adequately to the healthcare needs of California’s inmate population.”
However, the state corrections department said Tuesday that it would not fight the transfer order, and would begin the “complicated logistics” of moving at-risk prisoners from Pleasant Valley and Avenal state prisons.
The department said it already had moved more than 560 medically high-risk prisoners since January. It will allow inmates who wish to remain at Avenal and Pleasant Valley to remain. The court order gives California 90 days to finish the transfers, but the state agency said it may ask for an extension if it needs one.
Epidemiologists from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention toured both prisons last month and are expected to make recommendations on further steps California can take.