The L.A. County Sheriff's Department has confirmed there are 20 cases of swine flu among prisoners at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic. According to Associated Press, LASD spokesman Steve Whitmore said Wednesday that the first flu case was confirmed two weeks ago at the Men's Central Jail downtown. Whitmore said two groups comprising 190 Pitchess prisoners have been quarantined in separate housing areas and will be monitored over the next week. He confirmed that two inmates have been sent to outside hospitals for treatment.

Besides serving as Petri dishes for social viruses that plague the outside world, prisons are notorious incubators of illness. Only last April the state prison in Lancaster was placed on lockdown following the discovery of an inmate infected with tuberculosis and previously, in February, 2008, a panel of federal judges had tentatively ordered the release of 55,000 inmates held in California state facilities because of overcrowded conditions. The judges found that overcrowding “substantially increased the risk of the transmission of infectious illnesses among inmates and prison staff.”

L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca had recently requested the September 1 closing

of part of the Pitchess jail as a budget-cutting measure.

Unfortunately, such a move wasn't intended to disperse prisoners to a

larger facility, but to pack them into the super-crowded downtown Men's

Central Jail — where the flu first began.

LA Weekly