Sharing a mask or a disposable cup, a group of inmates from Los Angeles County tried to infect themselves with the new coronavirus to force their release, said local sheriff Alex Villanueva, according to AFP reports.
“There was a mistaken belief among the prison population that if we tested positive, we would somehow be forced to release more prisoners, which will not happen,” said Sheriff Villanueva.
The official cited videos captured by video surveillance cameras in mid-April in two modules of the North County Correctional Facility, located in Castaic, 67 km from downtown Los Angeles.
The first video shows an inmate sharing doses of hot water with a group of companions who were waiting in line to go to the infirmary. “They were trying to increase their temperature readings, to fake one of the symptoms,” said the sheriff.
In a second video, the prisoners shared a disposable cup and breathed with the same mask, which is unknown if it belonged to someone infected.
“It’s sad”: Inmates at a Los Angeles County jail intentionally tried to infect themselves with COVID-19 by sharing water and a mask, and within two weeks 30 prisoners tested positive, sheriff says. https://t.co/72z10jbPQ0 pic.twitter.com/UCz9fD1RQd
– ABC News (@ABC) May 12, 2020
John Satterfield, a lieutenant in the sheriff’s department, said the images “are just a sample of other videos being analyzed, and are part of the ongoing investigation”.
None of the prisoners admitted that they were trying to get infected. It is not clear how the outbreak started and whether one of these prisoners was ill, but, according to Villanueva, in these two modules alone, 21 prisoners tested positive in the week of the videos.
“It is sad to think that someone deliberately tries to expose themselves to Covid-19,” commented the official, pointing out that 4,590 inmates, or 40% of the county’s prison population, are in quarantine and 357 have tested positive, of which 117 have already been tested. have recovered.
According to the sheriff, 5,000 prisoners were released under the plan to contain the virus in the prison system, leaving the prison population at 11,700, the largest in the country. “If this pandemic had spread while we had 17,000 inmates, the result would have been catastrophic,” he said.
But critics like the NGO JusticeLA consider that it is not enough. “More detainees must be released,” said spokeswoman Patrisse Cullors in a note sent to AFP. “We have no idea how far the disease is spreading in prisons.”
“What I have heard from prisoners is that there is not enough soap, hot water, that guards make fun of people in prison, coughing, telling them that they are going to die from Covid,” he added.
Sheriff Villanueva said that since May 3, all new inmates have been tested, with 16 positive results out of 632 tests.