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CA Prison Union Will Meet in Vegas Amid COVID Surge

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association's board includes representatives from all 35 prisons plus some who represent officers outside prisons, such as parole agents and officers who work at fire camps.

by Wes Venteicher, The Sacramento Bee / January 7, 2021
In this photo taken Wednesday, July 24, 2019, is a secured entryway into San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) AP
(TNS) - Jan. 7—The union for California state correctional officers has invited representatives from every prison to gather in Las Vegas for a board of directors meeting even as their institutions contend with surging coronavirus outbreaks.
 
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association's board includes representatives from all 35 prisons plus some members who represent officers outside prisons, such as parole agents and officers who work at fire camps.
 
Also invited to the two-day meeting, scheduled for Jan. 26 and 27 at Caesar's Palace, are roughly a dozen members of the union's committees along with retired chapter members, according to a website set up for union members to make travel arrangements.
 
A dozen state prisons have reported more than 200 new COVID-19 infections among inmates in the last two weeks, and another six have reported more than 100 new infections. More than 2,500 prison employees have reported new infections in the last two weeks and about 13,000 out of 55,000 have contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic.
 
Most large in-person meetings have been canceled during the coronavirus pandemic due to concerns about creating "super-spreader" events in which an infection may be passed around and then spread far beyond the group when the gathering is over.
 
California has prohibited most in-person gatherings of more than one household, whether they are held indoors or outdoors, under emergency orders. Nevada permits gatherings of up to 50 people.
 
Glen Stailey, the union's president, referred questions to a union spokeswoman when reached by phone Wednesday.
 
"These meetings are important to the association and its members as it relates to many topics including COVID-19 inside prisons," CCPOA spokeswoman Nichol Gomez said in an email.
 
Gomez said the group would follow all Nevada and California state protocols and is "constantly evaluating the situation and will make decisions accordingly."
 
Gomez did not respond to questions about how many of the members who have been invited plan to attend, nor did she say whether the members plan to get tested or quarantine before or after the trip.
 
The quarterly meeting is typically held in Sacramento. It's separate from the union's standard annual convention in Las Vegas, which it canceled last year.
 
The trip comes after state legislators were roundly criticized for traveling to Maui for a policy conference in November.
 
Other California state unions have canceled in-person board meetings and conventions, including SEIU Local 1000, Cal Fire Local 2881, the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians, the Professional Engineers in State Government and the California Association of Professional Scientists, union representatives said Wednesday.
 
"At the forefront in our thinking was the safety of our members," said Eric Soto, president of the union representing psychiatric technicians who work in state hospitals. "We did not want to inadvertently transmit the virus between union activists, among members who are working at their facilities and who are going back to their families."
 
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