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Activists gather outside California jails, call for mass clemency to stop COVID-19 spread

Activists gather outside California jails, call for mass clemency to stop COVID-19 spread
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Activists gathered outside dozens of California detention centers and called for Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomWashington, Oregon, Nevada join California plan to review COVID-19 vaccine OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Ford, GM scientists knew in 1960s that emissions caused climate change: report | Testing for oil in Arctic wildlife refuge proposed for this winter | Biden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races Electric vehicles see state-level gains MORE (D) to grant mass clemency to inmates in response to surging rates of COVID-19 infections in prisons around the country.

A press release from the California Liberation Collective indicated that protesters gathered in 30 separate locations outside of various state detention facilities including California State Prison Solano and San Quentin State Prison, where activists displayed banners referring to the facilities as Newsom's "COVID death camp[s]."

"My brother is Baleegh Brown. He is immunocompromised and currently incarcerated at Lancaster state prison," said one activist who organized the local event outside of Lancaster, in a statement provided to The Hill.

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"He was told he would be released and he signed parole papers to be released in July due to COVID, but the state has yet to release him. We are speaking out not only on behalf of my brother, but all family members who have loved ones who are at risk due to COVID. We are urging humanity over punishment," the activist, Najmah Brown, added.

A list of demands released by the California Liberation Collective along with the protests called on Newsom to grant mass clemency to inmates and a cessation of the transfer of suspected undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.

Dozens of inmates have died in California state prisons due to the COVID-19 outbreak, including 26 alone at San Quentin.

"With the stroke of the pen [Newsom] can free people from state prisons, through mass clemency and emergency release; he can stop transferring our community members in between prisons and ICE detention centers, which is a proven source of the spread of the virus; he can stop allowing immigration detention to expand in California; and he can hold the detention industry accountable," added Priya Arvind Patel, an immigration attorney with Centro Legal de la Raza, told The Hill. 

"History will remember what happened in these facilities and those who had the power to do more," Patel added.

The state have pledged to release roughly 18,000 inmates from state facilities so far this year due to the spread of COVID-19, most recently announcing in July that 8,000 inmates would be granted early release.

Newsom's office did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill. Protesters previously chained themselves to the front gate of the governor's mansion earlier this year, calling for similar action to stop the spread of COVID-19 in state prisons, resulting in more than a dozen arrests.