On Tuesday, the head of California’s prison system said a court order to evacuate thousands of inmates from two valley fever infested prisons could lead to racial conflicts.
According to the NY Times, most of the inmates are Filipino and black, and are considered most medically at risk for valley fever. Beyond the health implications of the disease, Corrections Officer Jeffrey Beard told the Times that moving the inmates could upset racial balances and inspire gang violence.
"We have to be very careful so we don't destabilize other institutions and create other problems while we're trying to solve this problem," Beard said.
Beard called the move complex and difficult, and hoped it wouldn’t have unintended effects.
Though prison officials have been aware of the outbreak for some time, Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard said the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control must first decide on how to respond to the illness before officials can act.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who ordered the removal of all 3,250 inmates within 90 days, criticized the CDC’s delayed reaction. While Henderson ordered inmate removal, the correction officers must determine where to move them.
Exhausted with the prison’s passivity, Henderson ordered the state on Monday to remove prisoners within seven days or face consequences.