State workplace safety agency fines multiple California state prisons for COVID violations

FILE ART (Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

The state agency that oversees workplace safety has fined a total of eight prisons in California for COVID violations, resulting in a maximum citation total of nearly $700,000, a review of Cal-OSHA records show. 

The most recent prisons cited are Chuckawalla Valley State Prison for $39,100; Ironwood State Prison for $57,800, both of which are in Blythe, Calif.; and the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, Calif. for $100,750. All the institutions are in Riverside County. 

OSHA issued the fines on Feb. 26, for alleged violations that occurred roughly six months prior. The first two investigations were accident-initiated. The final citation was issued after a death occurred at the Norco prison. 

Most of the alleged violations stem from issues related to record-keeping, training employees on equipment and providing the proper testing and contract tracing of prison staff. 

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not immediately respond Friday for comment. And the department has the right to appeal the citations.

But when the prison system was issued a record nearly $400,000 fine on Feb. 1 for COVID workplace violations at San Quentin State Prison, a spokeswoman noted that the inspections that triggered the fines were in June and July, and the prison has since "made many improvements and already remedied several of the citations."

"We have worked with Cal-OSHA representatives throughout the pandemic to ensure regulations were met and concerns addressed expeditiously, the prison statement read. 

The prison spokeswoman made similar statements when Cal-OSHA it was fining Avenal State Prison $39,600, saying that inspections at came after reports of employee hospitalizations following outbreaks at the institutions.

During the pandemic, CDCR has faced accusations that it had failed to enforce safety protocols among employees and officers, leading to the illness and death of 215 prisoners.

As of this week, there are slightly more than 91,000 people incarcerated in California's prisons, which are at 103% capacity. 

As of late February, about 40% of people in the custody of California’s corrections system have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

California prisons cited by OSHA: 

  • Chuckawalla Valley State Prison $39,100
  • Ironwood State Prison $57,800
  • California Rehabilitation Center $100,750
  • California Prison Industry Authority $16,200
  •  San Quentin State Prison $396,070.00
  • Avenal State Prison $39,600 
  • Corcoran State Prison $18,000 
  • Wasco State Prison Reception Center $16,360 

Local sheriff's offices and police department cited by OSHA:

  • Alameda County Sheriff's Office $2,440 
  • Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (Men's Central Jail) $1,485
  • Riverside County Sheriff's Department $17,895
  • Santa Rosa Police Department $32,000

Source: Cal-OSHA 

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez