Media Contacts:

Ella Baker Center: Ashley Chambers,; Jessica Brand,


December 14, 2020

San Quentin, CA: On Monday, December 14th, the #StopSanQuentinOutbreak coalition launched a petition demanding that Governor Newsom and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) immediately halt the pending involuntary transfer of up to 400 elderly and medically vulnerable people from San Quentin State Prison to other prisons statewide. 

The coalition – comprised of currently and formerly incarcerated people, their loved ones, and community advocates – first formed this past June in response to the initial botched transfer from California Institution for Men (CIM) that started the tragic COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin, claiming 29 lives to date. Since then, the coalition has urged CDCR and Governor Newsom to save lives by granting large scale releases without categorical exclusions. 

For the first time since the pandemic, CDCR is battling COVID-19 outbreaks in all of its 34 prisons statewide. Yet, despite growing pleas for releases at the height of CDCR’s COVID crisis and on the heels of the groundbreaking population reduction order In re Von Staich, CDCR is conducting another involuntary mass transfer this holiday season. Out of the public eye, prison officials have informed up to 400 elderly and medically high-risk people at San Quentin that they will be forced to transfer immediately. Reports from inside indicate that transfers will begin early Monday December 14th. 

Rahsaan Thomas, currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison stated: “Where do you send people? You can’t truly isolate people in prison… Moving people during a pandemic is how we got in this problem in the first place.” (Interview excerpt here.)

The transfer decision is especially egregious in the face of stay-at-home mandates that have gone into effect statewide to control record-breaking COVID-19 spikes and ICU bed shortages.

James King, a coalition leader and Ella Baker Center State Campaigner pleaded, “Enough is enough. Incarcerated people cannot continue to be treated as pawns in CDCR’s political games. We cannot continue to hold CDCR’s vulnerable, aging population in overcrowded superspreader prisons. The only safe and humane solution is to grant releases now.” 

Our coalition can provide you with press interviews from family members, attorneys, incarcerated people (including those awaiting transfer), formerly incarcerated advocates, and public health advocates. Watch videos and testimonials here from loved one Donna Larsen and currently incarcerated community member Rahsaan Thomas.