Sonoma County inmates go on hunger strike for in-person visitation amid pandemic

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About 100 inmates at the Sonoma County Jail are on their fourth day of a hunger strike. The inmates want in-person visitation with friends and family members amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But, that may not be happening anytime soon.

It’s been a year since inmates at the Santa Rosa jail have been able to have in-person visits.

"The inmates have said, really, the primary reason they’re participating in this hunger strike is because they want in-person visitation again,” said Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Misti Wood. “It’s what’s been so hard about this year for everybody. It’s been hard on the inmates and hard on their families and their friends and their loved ones, because with the coronavirus pandemic we’ve had to be really, really cautious about trying not to let COVID-19 into the jail.”

Wood told KCBS Radio that the jail has a transient population, and with people coming and going it’s very challenging to keep the virus out of the facility. There was an outbreak in late 2020.

The striking inmates are in the jail’s all-male section.

Wood said there are currently no plans to resume in-person visits.

“We’re working closely with the health department to work on mitigation measures, so when we are allowed to have in-person visitation again, we’re ready to go,” she added.

The measures being considered include visitors having to provide proof of a recent COVID-19 vaccination, Wood said.