It’s a claim almost too shocking to believe, but Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says some inmates are trying to intentionally infect themselves with coronavirus so they can get released.
He made the stunning claim Monday at his weekly COVID-19 briefing, and said surveillance videos recorded at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic, Calif. prove prisoners have hatched a plan to get sick.
“I know it’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around why would someone want to do that. It’s dismaying and disheartening, and it goes to the crux of, well, there’s a reason why these people are behind bars to begin with, because they violated the norms of society,” Villanueva stated.
The footage shows inmates in a community room huddling together.
“It’s sad to think that someone would try to deliberately expose themselves to COVID-19,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva narrated the footage during the briefing and claimed inmates have been sniffing from the same mask and drinking from the same water bottle.
“You see the handoff, they’re gonna be sharing swigs from the same bottle of water,” he said.
The videos were recorded last month. A short time later, there was a spike in confirmed coronavirus cases at the facility, according to the sheriff.
“As a result of this behavior, from this particular module, 21 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 within a week of these videos being taken,” he said.
Inmate advocates immediately blasted Villanueva, who’s no stranger to controversy, for his comments.
“These statements from the sheriff are irresponsible,” JusticeLA said in a press release.
“In an attempt to demonize incarcerated people, he is taking a page right out of Trump’s playbook by gaslighting those who are already vulnerable,” the group added.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Los Angeles County has released about 5,000 inmates from county jails.