Prisoners report on San Quentin health crisis: Legionella outbreak prompts water shutdown

From the SF Bay View:

September 9, 2015

by Kevin D. Sawyer 

On the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, government officials and first responders continue to lack the ability to plan for emergency situations.

San Quentin State Prison, California’s oldest prison, is still on a virtual lockdown – or “modified program” – as normal programs for all inmates have ceased since Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, after “one confirmed case of Legionnaires’ disease” was discovered, Warden Ron Davis’ Aug. 27 bulletin said.

“They (San Quentin and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) knew this was coming,” said Charles Reece (D-06522). “The first of the month they said they were going to shut down the water to clean the pipes.”

In the afternoon of Aug. 27, prison officials placed yellow “Caution” tape and signs on drinking fountains on the prison’s Lower Yard. “Don’t Drink the Water,” the signs said.

Later that afternoon the prison administration ordered a mandatory institutional recall of all inmates directing them to return to their cells inside of their re­spective housing units.

Inmates said prison officials and medical staff had prior knowledge of the spread of Legionella symptoms, suspecting there is a health emergency brewing.

“If this has been going on since Monday (Aug. 24) how come all of a sudden Thursday it’s coming out?” queried Elliott Beverly (K-42353).

On Friday, Aug. 28, the prison would not allow inmates to shower due to the Legionella outbreak.

Because of the drought emergency declared by Gov. Brown earlier this year, inmates at San Quentin have already been limited to three showers a week.

“I think it’s a Machiavellian trick on the CDCR’s part to curb water use,” said Steven Haden (P-32966). “I can’t do my normal body functions to live. I’m a human being. I can’t shut down like a machine.”

“They shut the water off at 8:00 p.m. last night (Aug. 27) and said they were going to bring us bottled water,” said Reace.

“Effective immediately, all water at the facility is non-potable pending testing of our water sources,” the warden’s bulletin said.

On Thursday evening in West Block, officers announced over the public address system that they would do hourly cell unlocks for inmates who need to use the bathroom.

“The process they’re using now is totally barbaric,” said Terry Slaughter (C-89387). “The prison (officials) failed to have a proper back-up system for this prison.”

According to the California Code of Regulations (Title 15, Division 3, § 3301, Emergency Operations Plan), “Each warden must have in effect at all times an Emergency Operations Plan, approved by the Emergency Planning and Management Unit, to assist in the preparations for response to and recovery from ‘All Hazards’ incidents.”

Qadree Birch (J-53333) works in the prison kitchen. He said he was not allowed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, “Nor did they supply us any water, but they want us to go to work.” He said he was in his cell for 16 hours with the water turned off and the flushing mechanism disabled on the toilet, “without warning.”

“For inside the institution, all water will be shut off to the housing units,” the warden’s bulletin said. “For staff and inmates, bottled water and secondary water resources will be deployed throughout the institution for consumption.”

Inmates in West Block have been receiving secondary water that is trucked in and stored inside of a temporary water tank on the Lower Yard. Twenty-four hours after the warden’s bulletin was issued, no inmate had received bottled water. As of Monday, Aug. 31, West Block inmates still have not received bottled water.

Read the rest here.