A hunger strike is underway at the main jail in Santa Clara County with inmates not eating for one week so far. The inmates are trying to draw attention to what they call unsafe pandemic conditions and unfair treatment of inmates who test positive for Covid-19.
According to data released January 15th by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, there were 91 county inmates with active coronavirus cases.
The advocacy group Silicon Valley De-Bug has been documenting claims from inmates inside the jail. The group told the San Jose Spotlight that inmates are suffering through confinement and cruel and unusual punishment related to the pandemic.
Silicon Valley De-Bug says inmates who test positive for the virus are often put into cells that have unsanitary living conditions. They also say inmates often report staff members not wearing masks or social distancing.
The inmates have a list of demands according to KRON4. They want all jail staffers to adhere to county health guidelines to help keep the virus from getting inside the jail, along with clear communication on the guidelines within the facility.
KRON4 posted the Sheriff’s response to the hunger strike:
“We are aware of the hunger strike involving approximately 50 or so inmates that began on Wednesday 1/13/2021. We take the health and welfare of those in our care seriously and we will work closely with custody health services regarding those who elect to participate. Our office will continue to work to address and resolve concerns related to jail operations.”
SFGate posted results of a survey of 30 inmates by Silicon Valley De-Bug. All 30 of them said there were not enough cleaning supplies for their cells or hygiene products to keep themselves clean, and they are forced to share bathrooms that don’t get sanitized after each use.
95 percent of the inmates claim that phones are not being wiped down or cleaned between uses.
SFGate also reports that the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office could announce a plan as early as this week to release more jail inmates to ease the crowding issues.
Officials say it could involve as many as 1,000 inmates which is the amount that was released the first time they enacted jail releases for pandemic safety reasons.