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

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 9 14:38:11 EDT 2015


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

*/by Kevin D. Sawyer
September 9, 2015

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

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.

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

“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.

Corrections officers arriving to work on Friday, Aug. 28, could be seen 
carry­ing their own bottled water that either the prison issued to them 
or they purchased outside the prison. On Sunday, Aug. 30, eight boxes 
containing six half-gallon bottles of water each were brought into West 
Block and placed at the corrections officers’ work station. It was later 
moved when inmates began asking questions.

“They weren’t prepared,” said J.D. Martin (D-44170). “They should have 
brought bottled water (for the inmates). We don’t know where the water 
provided comes from. The water they did bring was foul tasting. They 
could have provided better meals too.”

Inmates were given box lunches containing four pieces of bread, peanut 
butter and jelly, two cookies, sunflower seeds and a flavored beverage 
packet for dinner on Thursday evening, and again on Friday morning, Aug. 
28, for breakfast.

“They’re killin’ us with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” said Reece.

“Whether it’s true or not (that there’s a Legionella outbreak), I can 
appreciated that something was done, but San Quentin’s prison 
administration was not prepared for this,” said James Benson (E-C5506).

On the morning of Aug. 28, inmates were allowed outside of their cells 
to pick up their breakfast, lunch and water. The meals were served in 
front of several trash dumpsters that smelled of garbage from West Block 

Inmates were not allowed access to the dining hall, which is where meals 
are normally picked up during modified programs. At the time there were 
no means or provisions made available for the men to wash their hands, 
irrespective of the water being shut off the day before.

      “They’re killin’ us with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” said

Because drinking water was provided that came from portable kitchen 
thermoses, Beverly asked, “Where’s the water coming from?”

“It’s a sad state of affairs when men are oppressed and deprived of 
their basic human rights and necessities,” said Shaka Senegal Muhammad 
(K-16606), who is an Inmate Disability Assistance Program worker.

On West Block’s Upper Yard, 14 new Honey Bucket porta-potties, made by 
Satellite Industries, Inc., were made available by Friday morning for 
inmate use. No seat covers or extra toilet paper was provided.

There were two hand-washing stations provided later – for more than 700 
inmates. No paper towels were available in the morning, and each unit 
ran out of water in less than an hour. Both of the water storage tanks 
had trash in the bottom.

Leroy Lucas (J-44232) said he went to medical on Thursday, Aug. 27, and 
saw a Dr. Beatty, who told him he had Legionella. “I have all the 
symptoms of Legionella: short breath, coughing.” He said a prescription 
for antibiotics was written for him but as of that evening he had not 
received medication.

Reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, men stood in line in 
the hot sun for hours waiting to get water from the portable thermoses. 
They were told it was uncontaminated water, but because it was not 
bottled they questioned where it came from.

The men had to provide their own cups. State-issued cups for meals hold 
eight fluid ounces. Indigent inmates who cannot purchase larger 
containers had to use plastic coffee jars and soda bottles which 
according to prison rules are considered contraband once the original 
contents are depleted.

“Enough bottled water should have been stored and made accessible within 
about three or four hours,” said Benson. “We went without water for more 
than 12 hours. This is an emergency.”

Robert Ortiz (T-90745) said the state should test the water more often 
to prevent any type of outbreak. “I feel they should always be prepared 
with bottled water. We didn’t get to use the bathroom or drink water 
until 2:00 in the morning.” Quoting the Ifa religion, Babalawo Orisan, 
Ortiz said, ‘“Water is life and without it, it’s all bad with everything.’”

“It looks like a third-world country out there,” said Lucas.

Haden said the situation the prison administration has created with the 
water is inadequate. “If they can’t give me what I need to exist as a 
human being, then they need to let me go.”

The CDCR is still under federal receivership by the federal court due to 
decades of medical and mental health neglect of inmates, and it has been 
ordered to reduce the inmate population to 137.5 percent of overall 
design capacity.

“The fear is we don’t want other individuals to be effected,” Lt. Samuel 
Robinson, San Quentin’s public information officer, told NBC Bay Area 
news, KNTV, Channel 11. “It’s an uncomfortable period of time, but bear 
with us and we’ll get through it.”

Prison officials have spoken to inmates through the Men’s Advisory 
Council (MAC), an elected body of inmates that serves as the liaison 
between the administration and inmates.

MAC representative Jamal Lewis (H-57184) said, “They need to condemn 
this mother-f**kin’ place. They put us through cruel and unusual 
conditions and expect us to take it.”

Late Saturday, Aug. 29, NBC reported more than 30 inmates with symptoms 
of Legionella.

On Sunday, ABC reported six cases of inmates with the pneumonia-like 
disease and 51 more with symptoms.

As of Monday, Aug. 31, the inmates in West Block have gone more than 96 
hours without a hot meal and no bottled water. The only inmates known to 
be receiving bottled water are the men in the Adjustment Center, Death 
Row and administrative segregation.

“Some of the water I tasted tastes kind of stale,” said Wade Morman 
(H-36783). “I’m disappointed they would deceive the public, namely about 
portable showers. I haven’t had a shower in five days.”

All of this comes less than a week after the prison hosted the largest 
health fair in the nation held inside of a correctional facility. It was 
the prison’s 12th annual health fair sponsored by the inmate group TRUST 
(Teaching Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Training) and 
Centerforce in conjunction with the Bay Area Black Nurses Association.

      Prison officials have spoken to inmates through the Men’s Advisory
      Council (MAC), an elected body of inmates that serves as the
      liaison between the administration and inmates.

“They (SQ and CDC officials) lied to Channel 5 News (KPTX) about bottled 
water. Nobody on the mainline has received bottled water,” said Russell 
Bowden (D-82038). “Staff has been using said bottled water that was 
supposed to go to inmates.”

Bowden said he was told by an inmate kitchen worker that the bottled 
water is stacked in the kitchen. He also said there are inmates who have 
had Valley Fever in other CDCR prisons and other serious ailments that 
compromise their immune systems and are subject to “serious physical harm.”

“Where’s the contingency plan?” asked Charles David Henry (F-00408). He 
said the prison has not provided him with the required distilled water 
for his C-Pap breath­ing machine. He uses it at night to generate water 
vapor for his lungs. He said it restores oxygen to his blood while he 

According to Henry, he asked Sgt. Collier when he would get his water. 
He said the sergeant contacted the prison’s medical department and was 
told to inform Henry to use regular water.

“They said on the news they (prison officials) were using water to cook 
our meals and we haven’t had cooked food since this started,” said 
Morman. “They said we have portable showers and bottled water.”

Late Sunday afternoon, Aug. 30, the first wave of inmates in West Block 
were escorted to the Lower Yard to take showers in portable mobile showers.

“No one in four days has received a shower and no hot meals,” said Bowden.

Considering the circumstances, the prisoners have been fairly calm 
throughout the ordeal, although many are heard discussing the matter 
around the cell block, express­ing their dismay about how the situation 
has been handled. Some say they are going to file grievances.

As of Sunday, all inmates have been given showers. They are still eating 
the box lunches, no fruit in two days. West Block inmates have not had 
any vegetables, hot meals or bottled water. They did, however, pick up 
the box lunches for dinner in the dining hall instead of in front of the 
trash dumpsters.

On Monday, Aug. 31, inmates in West Block were served box lunches for 
breakfast and dinner.

“I don’t see why they’re (prison officials and the media) saying we’re 
getting bottled water that we haven’t received since it started,” said 
Tyrone Bracks (P-06686) on Wednesday, Sept. 2. “We barely started 
getting hot meals.”

On Sept. 1, representatives from the Prison Law Office came to West 
Block’s Upper Yard to talk with inmates and ask questions about what was 
going on. Other inmates reported that San Quentin Public Information 
Officer Lt. Sam Robinson escorted the PLO to West Block.

On Sept. 2 at 7:57 a.m., KPIX Channel 5 reported inmates receiving “hot 
meals.” This most certainly was not true for West Block inmates. The 
first hot meals served since the Legionella incident began on Aug. 27 
was at the evening meal on Sept. 2 at 5:00 p.m.

“I’m not getting enough nutrition to keep my body healthy,” said Gary 
Laine (V-90706). He said he has heart disease and is in bad health. “My 
stomach’s all messed up” from eating all the peanut butter.

      “I don’t see why they’re (prison officials and the media) saying
      we’re getting bottled water that we haven’t received since it
      started,” said Tyrone Bracks (P-06686) on Wednesday, Sept. 2. “We
      barely started getting hot meals.”

On Sept. 2, KNTV Channel 11 reported 95 inmates with Legionella-like 
symptoms at San Quentin.

On the same day, it was reported by some West Block inmates that the 
Marin County Health Department visited the prison. At the time of this 
report it was not clear what the purpose of the visit was.

/Kevin D. Sawyer is a staff writer for San Quentin News, 
//sanquentinnews.com/ <http://sanquentinnews.com/>/, and a member of the 
Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ No. 9996646). He holds a B.A. 
in mass communication with a broadcasting option from California State 
Univer­sity, Hayward, and a diploma as a paralegal and legal assistant 
from Blackstone Career Institute. Send our brother some love and light: 
Kevin D. Sawyer, P-22673, 1W-69U, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin 
CA 94974./

    *Contaminated water at San Quentin*

*/by Shai Alkebu-Lan/*

On Aug. 27, the Men’s Advisory Council met with prison officials to 
discuss the problems of a contaminated water supply at San Quentin. 
Since Aug. 24, dozens of inmates have been hospitalized due to a 
contaminated water supply.

Usually this occurs temporarily during the backwashing of the filters, 
but this time the contaminants made their way into the drinking water 

At present (Aug. 28), there are no fatalities, and according to the MAC 
representatives, all water is shut off, drinking water shall be shipped 
in and portable toilets shall be made available 24 hours a day.

However, the prison is on lockdown. There shall be no movement until the 
problem subsides.

The inmate population wants the community to know our plight and to be 
watchful of your own water supply.

/Send our brother some love and light: Shai Alkebu-Lan, P-02598, 5W-16L, 
San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin CA 94974./

    *The spread of disease at San Quentin*

*/by a death row SHU prisoner/*

Having an incubation period of up to 10 days, Legionnaires Disease may 
be activated by the steam of cooking or perhaps a hot shower. That’s 
according to information from various memos and bulletins posted on SQTV 
and local corporate media channels.

Based on one confirmed case, the first step Acting Warden Ron Davis took 
was to shut off the water supply to all the housing units. Considering 
the fact the water was turned back on within 24 hours of the reactionary 
shutoff, it’s reasonable to conclude nobody in charge thought the 
bacteria – Legionella – was being introduced via the prison’s water 
supply. In fact, at no time during Davis’ feigned fervor was 
staff-access-only water shut off.

Once the water was back on, Davis assured all staff and inmates, “It is 
OK to use the water for cooking.” Despite that being in writing, as of 
Aug. 30, prisoners warehoused in the death row SHUs and perhaps 
throughout San Quentin continue being fed sacks of dry, uncooked food 
for breakfast, lunch and dinner as if we’re dogs in a kennel.

The local corporate media didn’t report how malfunctioning 
water-limiting hardware causes toilets to flush continuously and how 
they’re left running for hours, days and even weeks. One has been 
flushing since about 6:30 a.m., and it’s now 10 a.m. There’s actually a 
prisoner in that cell too.

As I sit here listening to a toilet flushing into its 12^th hour 
straight, knowing it must be shooting a mist of bacteria – including 
Legionella? – into the air, which the occupant cannot escape from, I 
wonder how anyone in his right mind can’t see why the prison health care 
system is overwhelmed to the point of being declared cruel and unusual 

On Aug. 31, the day this was sent to the Bay View, the in-cell second 
tier temperature reached 81.2 degrees by 8 p.m., and the toilet was 
still flushing when the mail was picked up.

An even more deadly sickness keeps spreading throughout prison systems 
in the U.S., and it’s a lot like an antibiotic resistant strain of 
influenza. Reform cannot eradicate it and this strain is particularly 
vicious since nobody is immune to all the physical and mental damage 
hidden in denial and media manipulation.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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