A confirmed case of tuberculosis has prompted a lockdown of the state prison in Lancaster. Both the facility's nearly 4,600 inmates and 1,900 employees will be tested for the disease, which can spread quickly in confined spaces. Quoting prison officials, the L.A. Times reports that the infected subject was a staff member and that visits to the facility will be suspended this weekend. Meanwhile, Associated Press is reporting, efforts are underway to identify all individuals who were in contact with the infected person.
Last February a U.S. District Court panel tentatively ordered the release of up to 55,000 inmates from California's state prisons, citing overcrowded conditions. As of August, 2008, the three-judge panel noted, the state's prisons were operating at nearly 200 percent capacity. The judges made special mention of the health dangers posed by the California penal system's sardine-can living conditions:
". . . overcrowded conditions - the use of triple bunks in gymnasiums and other areas not intended to be used for housing, for example - have 'substantially increased the risk of the transmission of infectious illnesses among inmates and prison staff.'"
Those words now seemed to have been proved prophetic in Lancaster.