California officials say they will transfer thousands of inmates out of Pleasant Valley and Avenal State Prisons to comply with a court order aimed at reducing illnesses and deaths from the fungal infection known as Valley Fever.
Eighteen inmates at the Central Valley prisons have died from the disease since 2012. Hundreds more have suffered from the disease’s flu-like symptoms. Inmates contract the airborne disease from fungal spores found in the region's soil.
A federal court earlier this year ordered the state to move inmates known to be susceptible to Valley Fever within 90 days. That includes medically high-risk inmates and all African-American and Filipino inmates. The order followed a report last year in which medical experts concluded that efforts to control the spread of the disease by treating the soil on prison grounds had failed.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has transferred 560 of the highest risk inmates from the prisons this year. Hoffman said the department will make every effort to move the estimated additional 2,600 inmates who fall under the court’s order within the 90 days, but may ask for an extension.
“Transferring thousands of inmates is an extremely complex process and will take time,” said Deborah Hoffman, a spokeswoman for California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “Managing prison housing assignments can impact the safety and security of prisons system-wide. While we strive to have racially integrated prisons, we must be careful to avoid sparking race-based gang violence.”