The Tragic Poisoning of California's Prison Population


The state of California has apparently been slowly poisoning its prison population for many years now without doing anything to eradicate the problem. Prison officials and state lawmakers have long known that the arsenic levels in prisons within the state are high enough to have toxic effects on the inmates. Even though the state Department of Health issued a compliance order way back in 2008, measures to bring prison water back up to code have stalled many times, and now it's estimated that it might be October, 2011 before the problem is corrected. Inmates and their families, however, are even skeptical of that date. It seems the state is so unconcerned about it's prisoners' health that not even portable water filtration has been installed as a stopgap.

Arguably it could be said that California doesn't care what happens to the people within its penal system, because if they do, why haven't they done something about the problem in all this time? It's a simple matter to contact a water filtration company and have portable units brought in to take care of the problem until the state can initiate a more permanent system. Portable filters would remove the arsenic from the water bringing it down to non-lethal levels. State officials, however, contend that their failure to remove the toxins from the water isn't breaking the law, and maybe it isn't. However, it is violating the basic humanitarian rights we pride ourselves on in this country.

Arsenic is a known carcinogen, and if it is ingested over long periods of time, it can cause not only cancer but also skin damage and problems with the circulatory system. In California's Kern Valley State Prison, the drinking water has been found to have around twice as much arsenic in it as allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Even so, the prison's warden in 2008 issued a memo stating that the problem is not considered an emergency. There are more than 5000 men in the prison drinking contaminated water that can make them seriously ill, but the situation isn't being deemed an emergency? How can this be?

It appears that California's governmental officials are stalling, most likely due to the expense that is involved in correcting the arsenic problem. One may wonder how they can put a price tag on the lives of as many as 160,000 prisoners in the states facilities and consider it too high a price to pay, especially since reasonably-priced portable water filtration equipment is available on a rental basis.

Source by Kristie Brown


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