On Tuesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) replaced its top medical officer, Dr. R. Steven Tharratt, following continuing criticism over a growing coronavirus outbreak in the California prison system.
The CDCR has said that close to 2,400 prisoners currently have the coronavirus. Despite prisons quickly formulating plans to stop the spread and thousands of non-violent prisoners near the end of their sentence being released early, cases have continued to grow. 1,400 prisoners alone have coronavirus at San Quentin, the result of a transfer of infected individuals from Chino. And additional 250 prisoners were then infected at the California Correctional Center following a transfer from San Quentin.
The failure over the transfers adding to the continued spread among prisons was one of the chief reasons for Dr. Tharratt’s ousting early Tuesday.
Kelso, who had been appointed by a federal judge to oversee health care in California prisons in 2008, will keep Dr. Tharratt on as an advisor despite the continued spread.
Many critics have said that enough is not being done.
“They’re keeping prisons overcrowded and prisoners close together,” said prison consultant Doug Gilmore to the California Globe. “And they’re transferring people full-well knowing some are carrying it. It’s shameful. There’s no way they can safely social distance like that.
“Yes, these men and women did bad things, but they don’t deserve to die because of their circumstances. We’ve always known that prisons are quick breeding grounds for whatever bug is going around , and it’s the same with COVID-19. And despite that and full well knowing what mismanagement can do, they’ve done it.
“They aren’t fixing the problem, they’re just trying to jerry-rig something together.
“The staff are vulnerable too don’t forget. Nearly 200 have gotten coronavirus. And since they leave to go home, this only increases the chances that this won’t go away any time soon.”
Many California lawmakers, such as Governor Gavin Newsom, have been vocal on the issue of the prisoners, especially the prisoner transfers that have been spreading the coronavirus. Governor Newsom himself has said that the transfers ‘should not have happened.’
While the CDCR reorganizes its medical staff and measures within prisons to limit infections, others are also acting both in and outside prison walls.
Some prisoners are currently on a hunger strike to bring attention to their plight, while California lawmakers in Sacramento have gone over many California prison health standards due to the outbreak.
As of Tuesday, it has yet to be announced on who will succeed Dr. Tharratt’s position.