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Take action in support of people incarcerated in California

Demand Governor Newsom immediately release individuals at highest risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19

Stop San Quentin Outbreak Photo: / AFSC

Dear friends,

Today, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in the Bay Area, at San Quentin Prison. 

We are asking you to take action with us and demand Governor Gavin Newsom immediately release incarcerated individuals at highest risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. In particular, the Governor must release the elderly and those with underlying health issues that put them in acute danger of COVID-19.

On May 30, 2020, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) transferred 121 incarcerated individuals from California Institution for Men (CIM) prison in San Bernardino County to San Quentin State Prison. At the time of the transfer, CIM was a known “hot spot” for COVID-19 with over 500 active cases and 15 COVID-related deaths. While the incarcerated people who were transferred to San Quentin had previously tested negative for COVID-19, in many cases their tests were conducted 2–3 weeks before the transfer. 

Since arriving at San Quentin, 16 of the individuals who transferred from CIM have tested positive. This has led to a growing outbreak at San Quentin (which had no confirmed cases prior to this transfer) with nearly 1,400 cases confirmed to date and climbing, and six devastating and avoidable deaths. Due to a lack of testing, these numbers are likely an underestimation. While the individuals who transferred are being quarantined, San Quentin staff is actively spreading the virus by not staying in one part of the prison.  In order to prevent even more illness and death, time is of the essence. 

We know there is no “safe” way to social distance in prisons that operate well above their housing capacity. There is no safe way to transfer incarcerated individuals from one prison to another, without the risk of creating a new hot spot at yet another prison. The only way to control the spread of this global pandemic (inside prison walls and beyond) is to grant releases, stop ICE transfers for those released, and reduce California’s prison population.

Below you will find a sample call script and email template. We’re asking everyone to contact the Governor, as he is the person who has the power and authority to grant the releases necessary to address this already horrific situation. If you have time for additional calls and emails, please consider the other three targets – individuals within CDCR who could also make substantial changes that could save lives in this moment.

Thank you for taking action with us,

Laura, Fatimeh, John, Elizabeth and Ivoni 

AFSC California Healing Justice Team

Address your concerns and comments to:

  1. Governor Gavin Newsom; Public Comment form:; (916) 445-2841
  2. Ralph Diaz CDCR Secretary;;  (916) 324-7308
  3. Tami Falconer, Ombudsman;; (916) 324-5448
  4. Dr. Diana Toche, Undersecretary Health Care Services,  

Call Script:

My name is [insert name].  I am concerned about the safety of the incarcerated community at San Quentin State Prison and all State Prisons in light of the recent massive COVID-19 outbreak. At San Quentin, nearly 1,400 people are now infected with COVID-19 as a result of the CDCR’s negligent transfers of incarcerated people and overcrowding in San Quentin. I urge you to ensure the survival and health of incarcerated people at San Quentin by granting mass releases; stopping transfers between prisons; providing COVID-19 tests to 100% of the population; stopping exposed staff from working in unexposed units; and ensuring those who remain incarcerated have access to programs, essential goods, and free phone calls. Thank you. 

Email Template: 

Dear Governor Newsom,

My name is [insert name]. 

I am writing to express my strong concern about what is happening at San Quentin State Prison and in prisons across California.

At the end of May, over 120 people were transferred to San Quentin from the California Institution for Men, one of the COVID hot spots. 15 people have already died from COVID-19 at CIM. Now nearly 1,400 incarcerated people are infected with COVID at San Quentin and six have died. I believe the number of people who have already been exposed to the virus is much higher. The news is reporting that there was a delay after testing and a lack of proper quarantine for the people from CIM who were cleared for transfer to San Quentin. I believe that the lack of proper safety protocols is endangering incarcerated people’s health as well as the staff.

I support the incarcerated community at San Quentin State Prison and across all California State Prisons in their demands for CDCR and the Governor to grant releases and improve the conditions inside during this pandemic:

  1. CDCR and Governor Newsom must grant mass releases now
  2. Stop the transfers between prisons
  3. Provide COVID-19 testing to 100% of the population
  4. Limit exposed staff from working in units with no known positive cases
  5. Expand credit-earning opportunities
  6. Provide free essential goods (including hygiene supplies, stamps, etc.)
  7. Provide free tele-visiting privileges 
  8. Expand free phone calls
  9. Accept the invitation to tour San Quentin on Thursday

See their full demands here:

Thank you.

[Your Name] 

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