Saturday, May 30, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 13

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on April 15th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 7 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 7

CANARY: Keep it up


Well the COVID-19 count in the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary is up to more than 90 as of April 14—and lord knows it’s probably higher now. As as far as we know, 67 of those are inmates. 


It kind of makes you wonder what they are doing over there. Because we do know what they aren’t doing: preventing the spread of a contagious and sometimes deadly illness.

It’s pretty obvious that the prison’s safety protocols suck, which makes me wonder why some people are intent to pile onto the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office for the supposed terribly “infectious” conditions at the Main Jail

Man, I love a good Sheriff Bill Brown pile-on, but I just can’t on this one.

Yes, the county’s jail near Santa Barbara isn’t meant to hold the number of inmates it’s been holding for the past several years and the Main Jail is older than it should be. That’s why the county spent (is still spending) tens of millions of dollars to build Sheriff Brown his everlasting legacy in Santa Maria—the North County Jail

And even though there very easily could have been an outbreak at the Main Jail—two people who work at the jail have tested positive for the virus—none of the inmates have tested positive or even have been isolated because of the virus. 

But that’s not good enough for some inmate advocates who spoke with the Sun this week. They’re watching you, Bill! Those jail protocols for keeping COVID-infected inmates separated from the herd? Totally inhumane!

Even though “free” people—the ones who aren’t suspected of crimes and haven’t been convicted of doing shady business—have way fewer civil liberties than they did a month ago, it’s simply not good enough that solitary confinement is the only way the jail has to prevent the spread of the virus, according to Aaron Fischer of Disability Rights California

I don’t mean to sound like I’m not a liberal or anything, but what?

That’s literally what public health experts are ordering people outside of prison to do if they get the virus: isolate themselves. If you have coronavirus and get hooked up to a ventilator in the hospital, your loved ones aren’t even allowed to come see you. Solitary confinement is the way the world is attempting to prevent the spread of the virus. People have been locked inside their homes for weeks.

As far as Fischer is concerned, giving inmates free phone minutes, postcards, and access to education—which non-incarcerated folks actually still have to pay for—is simply not good enough, either. We need to let them out. 

And who else exactly should we be letting out, Fischer? We’ve already started letting low-risk offenders out. That started with prison realignment and a proposal last year to reduce some felonies to misdemeanors. The Judicial Council of California adopted temporary rules on April 6 to reduce jail populations because of the virus, and the sheriff is complying. 

As far as I’m concerned, the county jail is way ahead of the federal prison—and I, for one (I can’t believe I’m actually saying this), am totally fine with how the sheriff is handling things. 

The canary has been self-isolating for weeks. Send help to

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