Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán, who represent’s California’s 44th District, toured the federal prison on Terminal Island in San Pedro on Tuesday, where seven inmates have died from COVID-19, more than any other jail or prison facility in the county.
So far, 658 prisoners and 12 staff members have tested positive for coronavirus at the prison, according to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.
The representative likened the conditions inside the prison to those of detention centers at the Mexico-U.S. border.
“While I was there, I would hear the inmates screaming that were in isolation units,” Barragán said. “‘Saying ‘turn on the air, get us some air, help me, I need to make a call.’”
The congresswoman said more low-security prisoners should be placed under home confinement and that the inmates are in desperate need of protective gear, hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations.
She added that the masks inmates are using are flimsy, that she saw inmates congregating and more needs to be done to isolate those who are sick.
Over the weekend, a 70-year-old man who was serving a sentence for tax fraud died from the respiratory illness.
Barragán said she was disappointed that only 50 additional inmates are eligible for home confinement, when there are more than 1,000 housed at the facility.
Loved ones and protestors have also called for more inmates to be released.
Barragán has previously told the Los Angeles Times that she expressed concerns to the prison warden as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“I was on the phone with Dr. Fauci and brought up Terminal Island,” Barragán said. “He seemed a little alarmed,” she told the Times.