Tuesday, September 28, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 30

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 16th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 42

COVID-19 cases at Lompoc prison creep back up, concern rises

By Malea Martin

A new COVID-19 outbreak at the Lompoc Penitentiary—though currently much smaller than the one that peaked in May and infected hundreds—has family members and inmate advocates concerned about the current situation.

Family members of inmates at the Lompoc prison gathered in protest in late April when the first COVID-19 outbreak was beginning to ramp up.

As of Dec. 15, the Bureau of Prisons reported that 25 inmates and one staff member had tested positive for the virus, nearly doubling from the 13 reported the previous day. 

Chrissie Rogers, the founder of Love Your Inmate, a support group for family members of incarcerated individuals, said she started keeping a close eye on prisons when COVID-19 first hit.

“I noticed Lompoc got one, then five, 14, then 60,” Rogers said of the outbreak that peaked in May. “The numbers just started climbing.”

Rogers is concerned that the current situation could grow into something of a similar magnitude. 

“I’m a nurse. I know what this virus is doing,” she said. “The health care is not adequate in there to begin with.”

Through her work with Love Your Inmate, Rogers said she has contact with more than 300 people incarcerated at Lompoc. 

“Right now their biggest concern is medical,” she said. “They’re scared. They’re scared of another outbreak, they’re scared of being reinfected.”

The Sun asked the BOP whether any of the new cases are reinfections, but the bureau did not respond. The Sun has made repeated attempts to contact the Bureau of Prisons’ Public Affairs Department for comment since November.

U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal sent a letter to the bureau’s deputy director on Dec. 4 in which he asked for more information about medical staffing levels within Lompoc Penitentiary, what the prison’s plan is for potential case surges, and what the current communication protocols are for family members of those incarcerated who contract the virus. As of Dec. 14 Carbajal’s office had not yet received a response back. 

Rogers said that for family members of inmates, the amount of information they receive about their loved ones’ medical status is minimal.

“When you don’t get a call or anything to know that your loved one is OK, I mean, as far as we know they could be hospitalized,” she said. “We would never know until it’s end of life. They won’t tell you due to security reasons if they’re in a hospital, or they’re in a quarantine unit.”

Lompoc prison isn’t the only correctional facility battling a COVID-19 outbreak in Santa Barbara County. The Santa Barbara County Jail reported on Dec. 14 that seven staff members have tested positive for the virus in the last week. The jail did not report any inmate infections.

“All five custody deputies consistently wore PPE while interacting with inmates,” according to a statement from the county.

The other two recently infected staff include a sheriff’s deputy and a member of the department’s professional staff. 

“The deputy consistently wore a mask while at work,” the statement said. “The non-sworn member of our professional staff last worked on Dec. 8, 2020, in a position that does not involve contact with the public nor inmates.”

The juvenile hall also experienced a couple of cases among staff, reporting on Dec. 4 and Dec. 9 that institution staff members assigned to the Santa Maria Juvenile Hall had tested positive. In the first case, the individual had not been in contact with youth or other staff. In the second case, “although the staff consistently wore a face mask while on duty,” youth and staff who had close contact with the infected person were tested as a precaution, according to juvenile hall officials. 

Weekly Poll
What are the most important conversations to be having right now when it comes to policing?

We need to address how racial bias influences policing.
We should focus on funding the police so they can do their job.
Mental health is where our dollars need to go, both in and out of the police department.
As one Sept. 20 community input meeting attendee said, 'Let’s get back to the Old West and treat people like they should be treated.' (Interpret how you will.)

| Poll Results

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