Fault Lines

Pandemic in Prison: The San Quentin Outbreak

We investigate how a botched transfer between two California prisons led to one of the largest coronavirus clusters in the United States.

Earlier this year, California officials brought busloads of imprisoned men from a coronavirus hotspot to the overcrowded San Quentin prison.

They had not tested some of the transferred men for COVID-19 for a month.

The bungled transfer sparked one of the country’s worst outbreaks. More than half the men imprisoned at San Quentin have been infected, and 28 have died.

The pandemic put a spotlight on prison overcrowding, and in October, a court ordered San Quentin to drastically reduce its population.

We investigate how a prison system endangered jailed people and staff, and meet loved ones on the outside grappling with loss.