The explosive spread of the Omicron variant has brought our focus back to the COVID-vulnerability the prison system imposes on its captives. This week, we speak to two people — one outside and one inside the walls — dealing with the effects of COVID on California prisoners.. We start off with an interview with Olivia Campbell, an advocate for prisoners based in Sacramento who has appeared on Kite Line before. For background, she paints a troubling picture of systematic medical neglect since the beginning of the pandemic, including disturbing treatment of disabled and elderly prisoners in the two state medical prisons. Her focus this week, however, is on the state’s violation of vaccination orders, allowing guards to evade basic safety measures and threaten the health of vulnerable prisoners in California Medical Facility and California Health Care Facility.
After Olivia, we hear from Mwalimu Shakur, who updates us on conditions in Corcoran, the California institution where he is held. He shares that unfortunately, COVID-safety failures extend beyond the state medical facilities. In Corcoran, guards are also refusing vaccination and using the crisis as leverage against both prisoners and the administrators. While prisoner and solidarity protests spread across North America when the first wave of COVID hit, there is now a surprising acceptance — especially on the outside — of prisoners suffering sickness and death as Omicron tears through the prisons.