Loved ones worry for inmates at prisons with COVID-19 outbreaks

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — As of July 8, there are more than 2,200 inmates and more than 700 prison employees with active COVID-19 cases statewide. 

And it’s making loved ones worry about those behind bars. 

“Everything was going OK, you know? We are hearing about the other cases in San Quentin but, finally, he called and he said, ‘Babe, the cases are really rising in here and we are worried,’” said Shay Williams. 

Willams’ fiance, Thurman Lyles, is currently incarcerated at the California Correctional Center in Susanville where there are more than 130 COVID-19 cases. 

“He wrote me a letter, he’s like, ‘We’ve been on lockdown. Two of my bunkies got the virus,’” Willams told FOX40. 

Lyles, a father of three, was incarcerated back in September at San Quentin. He was later transferred to Susanville. 

“It’s almost been a year. He’s been positive and staying on the right track. And now that I hear the worry in his voice, it’s like I have to do something,” said Williams. “Him being there, having a weak immune system, it’s really scary.” 

As of Thursday, there were more than 2,200 inmates and more than 700 prison employees with active COVID-19 cases statewide.

Williams said she now fears the state is not doing enough to keep inmates safe from COVID-19.

“Like they don’t deserve to be let out. Like they’re not human. It’s not fair, it’s really not,” she said. “It’s depressing. I wake up every day like, ‘Is he OK? Is he going to call?’” 

A spokeswoman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation issued a statement saying inmates who test positive behind bars “are moved to an isolated area in the jail.” 

Public health staff also conducts a contact investigation to determine what, if any, exposure might have occurred to both staff or the incarcerated population. 

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Early Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom addressed the COVID-19 surge in California state prisons. 

“We’re making some progress, again, one case is too many,” said Newsom. 

But while the cases continue to rise, Williams said inmates like her fiance, who is up for parole in November, should be released early. 

“If these men have 150 days left, 120 days left, just these guys go,” said Williams. “I’m not going to sit around and wait. I’m going to call around until I get an answer. I’m his voice.”

Officials say since March, the prison population has been reduced by 10,000. They say officials are also working to increase testing in jails statewide.

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