Rapists and child killers among 15 inmates dead from Covid-19 in San Quentin prison as outbreak wreaks havoc
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the US and it has also wreaked havoc in California’s oldest prison where 15 incarcerated individuals have fallen victims, out of which eight were on the death row. San Quentin State Prison, which has been operational since 1852, is facing the worst inmate outbreak in the Golden State with nearly two-thirds of its inmates having already got infected. On Tuesday, July 21, the prison authorities confirmed the death of John Beames, 67, of what appeared to be complications related to the virus.
According to Associated Press, Beames became the eight death row inmate believed to have died from the virus as a result of the escalating outbreak. However, the coroner was yet to decide on the exact cause of death. Beames was sentenced to death in Tulare County, California, in 1995 for murder, torture, and other crimes involving a 15-month-old baby.
The prison had earlier avoided an outbreak till several detainees from the California Institution for Men in Chino were transferred there in late May, as per California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Since then, the prison’s inmates have been badly hit and those on death row were among the worst affected.
First death happened in mid-June, 6 between July 3 and 20
The first death of a person on death row in the same prison was reported in the middle of last month. Richard E Stitley, who had been on a death row for nearly three decades, died on June 24 at the age of 71. According to CNN report, Stitley’s Covid-19 status was not known initially but he later became the first known death linked to the coronavirus in the California prison. The pandemic has hit more than four million people and claimed over 144,000 lives so far in the country.
There were no other coronavirus-related deaths among the condemned inmates till July 3 when a spike in the deaths was witnessed again. Six deaths occurred between that date and July 20. All of them were convicted murderers and some even had charges of rape and other felonies. Two inmates died on July 3 and both of them were in their late 50s. According to AP, San Quentin presently has 860 active virus cases -- a number which is more than three times the number at any other prison. Nearly 1,200 inmates have recovered as well.
Other prisons have also been hit. California Institution for Men in Southern California has the most number of deaths -- 19. Four other centers have witnessed eight other inmate deaths scattered among them. Prison employees have not been spared either. At least 870 people have been hit currently while three have died.
Apprehending that the situation could be worse, US District Judge Jon Tigar on Wednesday, July 22, asked prison officials to either vacate or reserve 100 beds in each of the state’s 35 prisons for quarantining inmates. That can include tents, gymnasiums, or other converted spaces. The judge though did not follow the recommendation made by a federal official who said each prison should get rid of 20 percent of its population, the AP report added.