An inmate sued a California state prison for not acting promptly to repair broken ceilings that caused maggots and mice falling into the dining hall.
State officials were aware of the problem, and California has allotted $260 million to repair leaking roofs and clean molds for a period of four years. The cost of overdue maintenance for more than two dozen state prisons is estimated to be more than $1 billion.
Plaintiff Robert Escareno told the court that bird feces are scattered in the walls of the dining hall at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran. He also claimed that molds and other contaminants made his allergies worse.
Another inmate, Marvin Dominguez, said that mice fell twice onto the dining table before running into the dishwashing area in April 2018. He also said a maggot dropped onto his food in October of the same year.
Authorities said they are fixing the broken roofs as fast as they can, but they also blame the inmates for attracting pests. Associate Warden Jason Collins said inmates had been hiding "pruno," a type of alcoholic beverage made from fermented leftover fruit with a little bread.
"We all know that prison is not supposed to be comfortable," Escareno told the judge. "But at the same time, it's not designed for me to have to go and eat in a place, where I'm feet away from what I know to be bird feces."
Don Specter, director of the nonprofit Prison Law Office, who represents Escareno, said the situation at the SATF is a symptom of a bigger problem.
Similar conditions were reported in other detention centers in Brooklyn in New York, which include lack of heat, poor medical services, and leaking roofs short out electrical systems.
State Of California Prisons
Problems in California prisons have become systemic. In a study published in Federal Sentencing Reporter, Specter said overcrowding in prisons makes it impossible to run a safe prison system.
Federal detention cells in the state house approximately 155,500 men and women, which is more than half of the designed capacity. Experts said that overcrowding of this level is causing serious and at times fatal harm to inmates, prison staff, and the public.
"These risks are not theoretical. In one instance, a dormitory was so crowded that prison staff did not learn about a prisoner's death for hours, much less provide emergency care," Specter cited in the study.