Detainees at the North County Correctional Center in Castaic are seen on a surveillance video clogging the hot water dispenser, sipping water and “sniffing” a common mask, according to Villanueva.
“It is very disturbing to think that people would deliberately do this to try to force us to release more people,” the sheriff said in a press conference on Monday.
Detainees were drinking hot water to try to raise their oral temperature before a temperature check, he added.
Less than a week after the surveillance video, 21 detainees tested positive. The sheriff estimated that the 21 people represented about 40% of the module’s population at the time.
“Each inmate has access to their own cup of water, which they guard jealously,” said the sheriff. They use it to cook ramen noodles or make instant coffee, for example.
“It’s not something they share from person to person, and anyone who practices basic hygiene doesn’t do it anyway,” said Villanueva. “So in this environment, and then considering the fact that the 21 tested positive on this module, shows what their intention was. “
The department plans to prosecute those who intentionally spread the virus, he said.
“No one will admit” by intentionally trying to get infected, said the sheriff. “I think it’s their behavior that convinces them. “
The news comes almost two months after Los Angeles County released some detainees early and reduced the number of arrests in the county due to coronavirus problems.
The department relies on “solid science and sound legal advice” regarding the release of the detainees, said Villanueva.
The peak in mid-April in positive cases caught the attention of the authorities. On May 3, the department started testing everyone – but at the time of the video, only those with symptoms were tested.
A total of 357 detainees have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to the sheriff’s department.
CNN Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.