Report Warns of Exposing Inmates to Valley Fever
A group of public health officials recommended halting construction of new prison facilities in the San Joaquin Valley, arguing that the construction could expose a large number of inmates to the potentially fatal valley fever, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The recommendation was included in a report released by public health officials affiliated with seven counties, two academics from the University of California and physicians affiliated with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The report was submitted to Robert Sillen, the federal prison health care receiver, in June.
State lawmakers recently enacted a $7.9 billion prison expansion plan, which would construct 5,480 "infill" beds at five southern San Joaquin Valley prisons where valley fever spores are embedded in the region's soil. Construction can stir the spores, which can create health problems ranging from mild viral illness to respiratory failure when they become airborne.
The infill beds are part of a larger strategy intended to replace about 16,000 emergency beds currently in use throughout California's prison system.
Robin Dezember, the prison agency's chief of health care services, said the agency is responding to the report and will work to minimize the potential for exposing inmates to valley fever.
A shutdown of the construction at the prisons would hamper the state's effort to resolve the inmate overcrowding and to stem the threat of an early prisoner release order by federal courts, the Bee reports.
Dezember said the prison agency already is screening inmates that might be susceptible to valley fever. The report advocated such a screening program (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 8/16).