Local jails, prisons see quarantine increase; Union reps ask for inmate transfers to stop

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- COVID-19 continues to spread inside the prisons of Fresno County and that's slowing down the justice system. Some blame the transport of inmates, while others say employees and staff are bringing the virus in.

"We transport and receive numerous busloads of inmates every week, so we have inmates coming from all across the country to our facility on a weekly basis," said Aaron McGlothin, Union President at Mendota Federal Prison.

McGlothin explained that inmates are constantly moved in and out because they are considered a holding facility, and it's putting prison staff at risk.

"About a week ago, we received a transport from Southern California and quite a few of the inmates, as soon as they came off the bus, they were positive with coronavirus," added McGlothin.

Courthouse sources tell Action News that the number of quarantined inmates at facilities like the Mendota Prison and the Fresno County Jail continues to expand, adding at least 400 cases in just a week.

"We know from prior and peridia research that's been done that most of the spread of COVID-19 in a carceral or jail environment occurs because the staff brings it into the jail, not because inmates spread it around," explained Eric H. Schweitzer, Attorney at Schweitzer & Davidian.

RELATED: Massive jail COVID quarantine slows wheels of justice in Fresno County

No matter the cause, the quarantines have a tangible impact on our justice system.

Because inmates can't appear, hearings matters continue to be put on hold.

"Cases are turning, they continue to come back around again and again because it's very difficult to get cases through the legal processes that we have to get them through," said Schweitzer.

Back at the Mendota Federal Prison, union reps asked for inmates to be tested before being sent to their facility. McGlothin says the department of justice acknowledged that suggestion, but did not offer a solution.

"When an inmate transport is sent to our facility, we have to take them and accept those inmates. We can't term them away but more importantly, the agency itself has not been testing these inmates prior to their departure," said Mcglothin.

The Mendota Prison Union tells Action News that the warden has also requested that the transfers stop, but inmates continue to pour in by the bus load.
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