Inmate family members demand Pleasant Valley cut prison population due to COVID-19

'Let him out. Give him a fighting chance to survive this COVID,' said one family member.
COALINGA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Family members of inmates protested outside Pleasant Valley State Prison on Friday, calling for change in light of the ongoing pandemic and large outbreaks of COVID-19 at other state correctional facilities.

Pleasant Valley has had just one inmate test positive for the coronavirus.

Eleven employees have contracted the virus.

"We demand mass release," Monique Jimenez said. "It is not right, it is not fair, and we demand that our loved ones be allowed to come home."

Jimenez points out that Pleasant Valley is more than 130% occupied, so social distancing is not possible for her husband Christopher.

"He's handwashing that mask and reusing that mask," she said. "Some of the other individuals that are currently incarcerated, they don't have masks and so they're sharing masks."

Erika Hernandez says her husband has underlying health conditions, so she doesn't think he'll survive if he gets the novel coronavirus.

She thinks it could spread like wildfire inside the prison.

"He has one year left (of his sentence)," Hernandez said. "Let him out. Give him a fighting chance to survive this COVID."

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says they've reduced the state's total prison population by 16,000 since March.

They say facial barriers and hand sanitizer have been provided to inmates and staff, and have implemented measures to increase social distancing.

"More than anything I think he knows that he's not alone," Jimenez said. "Even though he may feel alone like many other people. There's so many people in there that don't have family, they don't have somebody to speak for them so we're speaking for all of them."
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