OAKLAND, CA (September 10, 2020) — Civil rights law firm Haddad & Sherwin LLP announced today that they have filed the first claim against the State of California and the CDCR for the COVID-19 death of a San Quentin prisoner stemming from the botched transfer of 121 untested prisoners from a Chino facility to San Quentin on May 30, 2020. The claim is filed by three of the children and the mother of Daniel Ruiz, one of at least 27 prisoners and staff who have died from COVID-19 as a result of that debacle.
The CDCR already has faced intense criticism for transferring those Chino prisoners from the California Institute for Men (CIM), all deemed high-risk for COVID-19, when many of them had not been tested for the virus for four weeks before they were transferred by busload to San Quentin. Up to the time of that transfer, San Quentin had not had a single case of COVID-19. Once those Chino prisoners arrived, CDCR and San Quentin officials failed to segregate them from the San Quentin population, and failed to protect San Quentin prisoners and staff from the virus they recklessly introduced. Those officials also failed to follow recommendations to control the outbreak from the Marin County Public Health Officer and other experts. Within three weeks after that transfer, San Quentin had over 500 known cases of COVID-19, and eventually, most San Quentin prisoners and many staff contracted COVID-19.
Afterward, Governor Newsom criticized the transfer, saying, “They should not have been transferred.” Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, whose district includes San Quentin, has described this as “worst prison health screw up in state history,” concluding that “the spread of COVID-19 at state prisons was a preventable public health disaster and a failure of CDCR leadership at the highest level.” This claim filed today addresses that failure of CDCR bureaucratic leadership to protect those in their care from COVID-19.
Daniel Ruiz was 61 years old, serving the last few months on a non-violent drug-related conviction. He was known to have several high-risk factors for COVID-19. Like many others, he contracted COVID-19 while in the custody and care of the CDCR. Due to CDCR rules also being challenged in the claim filed today, his family was not notified that he had COVID-19 until he been in the hospital ICU for two weeks, was on a ventilator, and close to death. His children and mother mourn his unnecessary loss and that they were not able to be with him in his last days.
People in prison have no power to protect themselves from the Coronavirus. They depend on California prison officials to follow the laws and protect their health. Michael Haddad, one of the family’s attorneys, says: “The folks in our prisons are human beings. Many who died at San Quentin had done non-violent crimes and should have been coming back home to their families soon. It is tragic and unacceptable that some prison bureaucrats treated them as less than human.”
Julia Sherwin, another family attorney, says, “This botched inmate transfer endangered not only prisoners, but staff and the surrounding communities, costing over two dozen prisoners and one San Quentin sergeant their lives. Adding insult to injury, CDCR prohibited the hospital from even letting Daniel’s family know he was there and fighting for his life against this virus, until the very end. Daniel suffered alone, while CDCR kept his Mom, kids, and siblings in the dark about his condition.”