COVID-19 & Justice

Four Men in Chino Prison Die of Coronavirus in One Week, Bringing CA Prison Death Total to 5

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker


As of Saturday, May 9, five men incarcerated at the California Institution for Men (CIM) in Chino have died of COVID-19. Three of the men died at outside hospitals on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, as coronavirus numbers surged within the prison. (The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced the first death on Sunday, April 19.)

On Friday, May 1, 114 prisoners and 42 employees in CIM had tested positive for the virus. By the morning of May 8, the number of cases among the incarcerated population had nearly tripled to 332 men. The number of staff cases increased by 6 during that time — to 48, with 19 having been able to return to work after recovering from the virus.

The CDCR has said that the quick jumps in case numbers are the result of the department gaining the supplies needed to increase testing volume.

The department has tested 2005 incarcerated men and women, 736 of whom have been held at CIM.

The CDCR has been shuffling prisoners around inside CIM and at other prisons, with the goal of increasing social distancing, sometimes even mixing dorms that were previously separated, as they expand into gyms and other makeshift housing, WitnessLA has heard from prisoners and their loved ones.

The department has also transferred prisoners to different facilities with the same goal of spreading out the prison population.

Attorney Michael Bien of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, a firm representing mentally ill prisoners in a lawsuit against the state, said he believed both strategies to be detrimental to the goal of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“I personally think that … putting prisoners on buses and shipping them all over the state is much more likely to spread COVID-19 than it is to stop it,” Bien told WLA. Moreover, spreading people out of the dorms into gyms made up of smaller 8-person pods “is a meaningless, medically bankrupt policy,” he said.

Bien and other criminal justice experts say “social distancing” is an impossibility behind bars, and the state must release more prisoners. “We think there are tremendous numbers of people incarcerated in California prisons who are safe and appropriate for release,” said Bien. Many are within months of release anyway, many have proven their rehabilitation during their years in prison, and many are elderly and/or ill, and thus at far higher risk of dying if they contract the virus.

Indeed, many of the families of incarcerated people WLA has talked to this week say their loved ones are medically vulnerable and were locked up for non-violent crimes mdash; offenses that should not sentence them to die of a virus in prison.

We’ll have more on this over the next week, so check back.

This story was updated to include information on the fifth death, on Saturday, May 9.


  • Wow, how sad, all inmates should be released into your neighborhood Taylor. I would support that move by the Democrat politicians. We then can use their place in prison to incarcerate women who are doing barbershop businesses in violation of the coronavirus regulations…or frame for a crime a political opponent or otherwise, disliked individuals by the ones in power, and place them in the convict’s place…

  • Instead of prioritizing nursing home residents, the Governor housed the homeless to protect them from the virus. Instead of demanding a plan for protecting of seniors and staff at nursing homes from Public Health, the BOS demanded to know what the Sheriff and Public Heath would do to protect county inmates. Half the deaths in Cal were from nursing. Early data from Europe showed this as the clear priority. These leaders failed.

  • Ladies,

    You are correct, our leaders have failed us. None more than captain Orange in the White House, and his failure affects an entire nation. Yet, I hear nothing from you except whining about the BOS or governor. Remember, this was “like the flu,” and come summer “it disappears like a miracle.” How about the disinfectant idea? Is this man a genius or what? One can’t make this shit up? As soon as they get their cases down, the world will be laughing at us. The Chinese are lending us the money, they will manufacture any vaccine that may come about, and we are getting supplies from them. I’m sure that you ladies are so pissed off at captain Orange that you are contemplating a Biden vote, right

  • Ugh…Charlie Brown….that pitiful excuse of a walking meat sack CF rears its ugly head. Just when I thought we might all able to rejoice and Darwinis theory regarding “Survival of the Fitest” might have created a solution to the problem that “IT” represents. Some vermin like cockroahes (aka CF) will always find a dark place to slither in and out or pile of sh#t to eat off before briefly coming into the light I guess.

  • @CF- Nope…Captain Orange will win again in November. Sorry to burst your bubble ma’am.

  • HILARIOUS! They must read WitnessLA and know (naive) people are pulling for them (as long as they’re infected).

    OR….what’s more likely is that the evil DEPUTIES are FORCING them to sniff the Corona-Chonis, because I can’t imagine victimized, justice-involved, currently experiencing incarceration people would ever be that devious.

    What sickening (literally) is the danger to personnel working in the jails because of the poor inmate’s stupidity.

    Imagine, all those poor (self) infected people released into society….like spores from a seed pod.

  • CF, I’m not a lady. Talking trash behind a keyboard means what, you’re impressing who? Like I said in a different post, Trump stopped flights when Dems wanted them to continue which would have been much more tragic for the nation. This will come back to haunt Biden. You can’t debate that so don’t try, you’ll just end up looking silly, again.

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