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Lompoc Federal Prison responsible for 65% of COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County

COVID-19 cases at Lompoc Federal Prison
Scott Sheahen / KEYT

LOMPOC, Calif. -- Lompoc Federal Prison is the only outbreak of COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County. The federal prison is currently testing inmates and the numbers keep rising each day.

 “There are conditions there that are very troubling," said Santa Barbara criminal defense attorney Bob Sanger, who has clients in that prison. "People should not be subjected to that, no matter what they’re sentenced for.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Lompoc Federal Prison has about 2,704 inmates. Of those inmates 1,027 have tested positive for COVID-19. At one of the two facilities, Federal Correctional Institution Lompoc, nearly 80 percent of inmates have the virus, that is 911 confirmed cases out of 1,162 inmates.

Nick Clay is the director of emergency medical services for the Santa Barbara Public Health Department. He said, “Certainly a higher number than we would expect, you know, two months or so after this outbreak has started.”

Cases at the prison make up 65.5% of Santa Barbara County cases.

Public Health officials announced on Monday that, of the 1,362 confirmed cases by the BOP, they currently have record of 893 at the Lompoc prison. Local leaders are frustrated the federal government didn't work with them better.

“It’s very uncomfortable and it’s frustrating and we are urging the prison to move as rapidly as they possibly can," said Santa Barbara County supervisor Gregg Hart. "As I said, they were not prepared for the pandemic, they moved very slowly, and they have jeopardized not only the health of the prison population, but the guards in our community.”

Sanger believes a major issue that led to the spread of the virus was over-population. He said, “In my opinion, unconstitutional. People, in many cases, having to sleep on the floor or confined to facilities for far fewer people.”

Inmates at Lompoc Federal Prison are serving a variety of sentences. And the lawyers said that the current COVID-19 outbreak conditions their clients are facing inside should not be a part of the sentence.

“People are being confined to places that threaten their lives," said Sanger. "And some people are dying. And they weren’t sentenced there to death. They were sentenced there for a period of years, usually to get out into society. But they have friends and family and people that love them. And they weren’t sentenced to death.”

County Public Health said the prison is now testing inmates and built a hospital to treat those who are sick. They also offered to help but there’s only so much they can do.

“There’s really little that we can do because we have no direct oversight on federal property," said Clay. "We’re happy to offer any support they would like. You know, we’re sort of limited in how we can support them. And if that communication isn’t there then we really have to struggle to support them.”

KEYT reached out to the Federal Bureau of Prisons for comment, but they didn't respond when this article was first published.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Scott Sheahen

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