Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department employees were warned of a dangerous new trend among inmates.
They deliberately try to catch the virus responsible for the pandemic in the hopes of early release.
A video taken inside the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic was released showing inmates passing around a worn mask and raising it to their faces. On May 11, during one of the weekly virtual press conferences held at the Sherman Block Building in Monterey Park, Sheriff Alex Villanueva presented the surveillance footage as part of a discussion to reduce risks of infection in the jail system.
In another video, inmates drank hot water from the same bottle for two reasons—to falsely raise their oral temperatures prior to testing and to infect themselves with the virus from the shared bottle. Their intentions were made clear as they ignored social distancing guidelines in the shared common space that easily accommodates a six foot physical distance from one another.
You can watch the surveillance footage below.
LA Sheriff Uncovers Inmate Plot to Spread COVID-19 in Jail; Outlines Methods of Prevention & Stats youtu.be
Villanueva said that 21 men became infected from the viral pathogen at the "relatively most isolated" facility within a week as a result of the scheme caught on camera.
When asked about the 21 cases linked to the incident, Villanueva responded:
"We had zero positives up until that spike, but that now, also, that has impacted our staffing as well."
The tactic was indicative of a "gross misunderstanding among the inmate population" that testing positive from the virus could be their ticket out of jail, but that misguided belief is not the case.
"That's not going to happen."
NEW: The LA County Sheriff says video surveillance shows inmates at a jail in Castaic sharing a water bottle, then… https://t.co/4CIJprcT1x— Bill Melugin (@Bill Melugin) 1589221937.0
Sarcasm over the behavior reigned on Twitter.
@BillFOXLA @DLoesch @FOXLA No one could ever have predicted this. Completely out of character for prisoners to atte… https://t.co/d8HDt8KcYc— Chris Moore (@Chris Moore) 1589225005.0
@BillFOXLA @FOXLA Enterprising!!— Roxanne Hoge (@Roxanne Hoge) 1589226540.0
According to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department's website, measures to protect those entrusted to the care of the Department included:
"Modifying bail and booking dollar amounts, reducing our inmate population by more than 5,000 bodies, ordering COVID-19 screening at booking areas, having both staff and inmates educated about the dangers and preventative practices, directed custody personnel to implement and conduct quarantine and isolation measures, making personal protective equipment available to everyone inside our facilities."
On May 3, the Department implemented a new virus testing procedure for incoming inmates.
Villanueva commented on the inmates' desperation to get out of jail at all costs.
"It's sad to think that someone would deliberately try to expose themselves to [the virus]."
"Well, there's a reason why these people are behind bars to begin with—because they violate the norms of society."
@BillFOXLA @FOXLA Showcasing the decision-making skills that brought them there in the first place. Bravo, professors!— Aldous Huxley's Ghost™ (@Aldous Huxley's Ghost™) 1589245607.0
The Department said 317 inmates within the Los Angles County jail system were isolated out of the 4,590 who were quarantined.
There have been 222 positive cases inside the jail since the pandemic, 117 recovered and 18 inmates were released from custody after testing positive "but prior to meeting CDC standards for being considered fully recovered."
Many jails have taken various measures to reduce overcrowding as inmates with chronic illnesses and complex medical conditions are vulnerable to infection.
On May 1, the presiding judge of Los Angeles released 250 prisoners facing misdemeanor and lower-level felony charges after a statewide ruling set bail amounts to $0 to limit the spread of the virus among people behind bars.
The book Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World is available here.