- Scott KernanUndersecretary of Operations, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
- Barbara Boxer
- Matthew CateSecretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
- Jerry BrownGovernor
- California Governor
Prisoners Forced to Drink Dirty, Cancer-Causing Water
People at Kern Valley State Prison are drinking dirty water against their will. And although a 2008 court order instructed officials there to do something about the arsenic in the water in the prisons two wells, nothing has been done. Upon doing my research I found out that the City of Delano is also in non-compliance with 9 wells out of the city's 11 wells, and they supply water to North Kern State Prison across the street from Kern Valley State Prison with approx another 5k prisoners and about 1,500 employees. Fortunately for the City of Delano's 55k residents they have the options of buying a home filter and or bottled water. Prisoners are being forced into drinking the water as it is the only thing available to them. Long-term exposure to arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, liver and prostate. It can also contribute to heart disease, diabetes and neurological diseases, according to EPA. The federal standard for arsenic in drinking water was changed from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion in 2001, according to EPA. Public water systems were given five years to comply.This is now 2011 and nothing has changed.
While California is obviously facing budget strains, that doesn't justify forcing anyone to drink water that's known to cause cancer and other ailments. That is inhumane even animals are treated better. Someday those currently incarcerated will be out on the streets, and when they get sick, we the taxpayers will likely have to pick up the bill, meaning it will cost more in the long run to let this problem go on unresolved. Removing arsenic from water is costly. Water providers must either drill new wells at about $1 million a piece, or implement treatment systems that also cost about $1 million plus annual operational costs of about $100,000. But medical cost is of treating prisoners with cancer and the othe serious illnesses has been quoted at 90k per year per inmate. At hose rates it would be cost effective to find even a temporary solution.
There's no reason we can't help the more than 10k prisoners at Kern Valley State Prison and North Kern and the employee's of the CDCR.
Please help end this cruel and unusual punishment.
Photo Credit: woodley wonderworks
- Undersecretary of Operations, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
- Barbara Boxer
- Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Thanks in advance for reading my letter, it is small and informal but to the point. In December of 2008, the CDCR was ordered to correct the arsenic problem at Kern Valley State Prison, but to date nothing has been done, despite the fact that arsenic is known to cause cancer and other ailments. The City of Delano is also in non-compliance with 9 of its 11 wells above the legals limit set by the EPA they supply water to approximately 55k residents and another 5k inmates plus staff.
We can not afford to put people in prison and allow them to get sick. Not only is it inhumane, but eventually taxpayers will have to pick up the bill for their medical care. Yes, these people are being punished, but there is also a thing called cruel and unusual punishment. And this water makes the CDCR employees ill as well, not just the prisoners. And amid a budget crisis, we surely can't afford to be buying cases and cases of bottled water so that they don't have to drink the foul, poisonous water those less fortunate -- the incarcerated -- have no choice but to drink.They are also being poisoned if they drink it.
We need to take action now, or it will cost Californians twice as much to deal with the problem down the line. Medical care for prisoners with serious medical conditions can exceed 90k per year per inmate as quote in articles posted online. CDCR employees are doing their job protecting the public -- how about protecting them? And should we not care about those inmates that will come out sick, with taxpayers being forced to pay to treat the illnesses caused by their stay in prison?
Please do something to ensure the more than 10,000 people incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison and North Kern have access to clean drinking water. Anything less is inhumane.
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