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Criminal Justice

California Prisons Pause In-Person Visits Amid Latest COVID Surge In Staff And Inmates

The gothic outer rim of San Quentin prison is seen in the foreground. In the background, tents erected to care for COVID-19 patient are in an open yard.
A view of an emergency care facility erected to treat inmates infected with COVID-19 at San Quentin State Prison early in the pandemic.
(Justin Sullivan
Getty Images)
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California prisons are suspending in-person visits starting Saturday due to the surge in COVID cases.

State prisons are now reporting more than 1,700 people in the prison population and more than 3,000 staff members are positive for COVID. Since the start of the pandemic, 246 COVID-related deaths of prisoners have been reported and 49 deaths for staff.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said those high infection rates among both incarcerated people and prison staff made the move necessary.

One-hour video visits will be allowed on weekends for all the state prisons. Those visits must be reserved over email.

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The temporary ban on visitors is set to continue through at least Jan. 23.

State prison officials said Friday that 80% of those incarcerated are fully vaccinated. That number for staff is 69% of staff, both rates prisons officials said are "a significant increase from the fall." One notable statistic: of those not fully vaccinated, just 2% of prisoners and 1% of staff are partially vaccinated.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 53,000 confirmed COVID cases have been reported in the state's prison population. Nearly 26,000 staff members have reported having COVID.

Civil rights advocates have raised the high case numbers in efforts to keep people out of jails and prisons and to get more incarcerated people released early.

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LAist staff contributed to this report.

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