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Dissent, Protest, and Punitive Measures Concerning COVID-19 Protocols within the Walls of the Mendocino County Jail

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Inmates within the Mendocino County jail took a stand this week against COVID-19 quarantine protocols they deemed unnecessary. This resulted in an entire module testing positive for the virus and in various privileges being revoked. We spoke with two inmates within the jail about the protest and with Sheriff Matt Kendall about the inmates’ grievances, their dissent, and the implementation of COVID-19 protocols within a correctional context.

Sean Horn, an inmate in the Mendocino County jail, told us via telephone during the last four days he and the entirety of his unit have been locked into their individual group cells without recreation time nor showers as a result of jail administrators hoping to quell the COVID-19 outbreak within its walls. 

Horn explained that per jail policy, anytime an inmate tests positive for COVID-19 they are removed from the module and placed in a quarantine module. Recently, inmates began to express dissatisfaction with this process. He told us multiple inmates asked the administration to let COVID-19 positive inmates stay with the rest of the population and just let the virus “run its course.”

Multiple inmates reportedly chose to “remain in their cells” rather than be relocated to the quarantine module, according to Horn, as a form of protest, and others within the last four days engaged in a 48-hour hunger strike. Participants of both forms of protest have since either left their cells or decided to eat.

With no access to showers, the inmates were provided baby wipes as a means to clean themselves, Horn reported.

Another component of inmates’ four-day lockdown was the revocation of their tablets and phone access, eliminating their ability to contact both loved ones and by one inmate’s account, even their attorney.

We spoke with Austin Neuroth, another inmate, who told us on Tuesday that he requested to call his attorney before a Wednesday court appearance, but was refused. Jail staff reportedly told Neuroth his attorney could see him as a visitor, but that was not possible because the attorney is in Fort Bragg.

Neuroth told us the phone and tablet privileges were revoked after multiple inmates, including himself, contacted family, friends, or attorneys regarding grievances they had with the segregation resulting from the COVID-19 protocols and the resulting 10-day quarantine. 

Further north in the Humboldt County jail during December and early January, as the COVID-19 virus spread rapidly among a dorm,  inmates concerned with conditions told Redheaded Blackbelt that the jail was not providing adequate protection against the COVID-19 virus. In a way, the concerns that emerged from Humboldt County are the inverse of those that emerged from Mendocino County this week.

Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall told us on Monday, January 24, 2022 inmates were tested for COVID-19, and the staff was concerned because the number of positives was rising. 

As a result of this revelation, staff attempted to rehouse the COVID-19 positive inmates to the quarantine module, but those inmates “refused to move.” 

Staff, rather than physically force inmates from the module, decided to treat this module as if all occupants are COVID-19 positive establishing an impromptu quarantine module.

These tablets, used by inmates to communicate with their loved ones, were revoked for two reasons. The first reason, according to Sheriff Kendall, was the reality that inmates were “refusing to obey orders.” The other reason was mitigating the risk presented by these handheld tablets of transmitting the virus throughout the entirety of the inmate population. The tablets are stored in a collective charging cabinet with all of the other units used in the facility, Sheriff Kendall explained, and the staff was concerned they could present a medium for the virus to spread.

When this specific module, which houses Horn and Nueroth, refused to comply with the protocol that required COVID-19 positive inmates to relocate, Sheriff Kendall said staff initiated quarantine protocols for the whole section. These protocols include not allowing the use of the shower facilities. Inmates were kept in their group cells of five to six men, refused access to the module’s common area known as the “dayroom” where the showers are located. Unable to shower, staff provided inmates with baby wipes and waterless shampoo, which as Sheriff Kendall described, is recommended by local public health entities.

From Monday till Friday morning, the module was quarantined to their specific group quarters, with four to five men in each cell. These inmates were not allowed access to the dayroom, emulating the exact same protocols used in the jail’s designated quarantine module. 

As to the claims voiced by Neuroth he was refused the ability to call his attorney, Sheriff Kendall could not corroborate his account but said that even quarantined inmates can contact their attorneys via video or non-contact, in-person visits.

Some inmates went on a hunger strike for a period of time, Sheriff Kendall confirmed, but said that no inmates remain on the hunger strike.

By Friday all twenty-four inmates within the dissenting module tested positive for COVID-19, Sheriff Kendall said. Once it was established all members tested positive, the entirety of the module was once again allowed access to the “dayroom” and the showers.

Sheriff Kendall did point out that another module in the county jail fully cooperated with the quarantine protocols and did not experience the revocation of their showers, tablets, or use of the “day room.”

Sheriff Kendall pointed towards multiple factors that could have contributed to these inmates refusing to cooperate with the COVID-19 protocols. “These fellows have COVID fatigue like the rest of us,” he said. “They don’t like wearing masks, they don’t like being separated from their friends. It’s something we’re all going through.”

Mendocino County’s Public Health Officer Dr. Andy Coren visited the Mendocino County jail to assess the viability of the facility’s COVID-19 protocols, Sheriff Kendall recalled and approved the jail’s policies

These inmates, Sheriff Kendall opined, “are sharp guys. They knew the virus would spread faster than the 10 days required for quarantine.” By refusing to comply, these men remained together, withstanding hunger, close-quarters a and four days without contact to the outside of the world successfully thwarting the quarantine protocols that threatened to tear them apart.

The experiences of these inmates might have been a consequence of their refusal to comply with the COVID-19 protocols, but their discomfort and dissatisfaction still stand. Austin Neuroth told us he is the nephew of Steve Neuroth, the 55-year-old man that died in the Mendocino County Jail in 2014 while facedown on the floor, hands cuffed, as staff stood aside. The tragedy resulted in a multi-million dollar settlement awarded to Steve’s brother. When Austin spoke with us, he referred to  what happened to his uncle and told us the “disregard and negligence is still going on.”

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13 COMMENTS

  1. The Low Gap Inn violate their own rules all the time. Punishment for “failure to communicate”
    I spent 40 hours naked in a sleep deprivation cell when jail rules said 24 hours max. I was not even booked yet. 80 hours before I was arraigned without counsel. 19 days in isolation, my phone calls were blocked yet they still charged me for phone time. If they cannot intimidate you they punish you. What we have here is failure to communicate
    I did write some great songs

  2. 😇I knew Steve Neuroth for 37 years. He was LITERALLY the most gentle & kind soul I have ever known in my life with the exception of infants.

    I KNOW he didn’t deserve to die like that even if he did medicate himself.

    ❤️‍🩹 MISS YOU STEVE!!

    God forgives but we MUST repent.

  3. Look up health risks of isolation and you will discover it is deadly. Lowers immune system and effects the whole body. Add to that the risk of suicide or violent response, road rage, domestic violence etc.
    Isolation is bad medicin and should be avoided whenever possible.

  4. We were so close there was no room we bled inside each other’s wounds
    We all had caught the same disease and we all sang the songs of peace
    Melanie Safka, Candles in the Rain, her tribute to Woodstock

  5. The (carcinogenic) ethylene oxide-coated PCR test was recalled in JUNE of 2021 effective 12/31/2021, but they’re still using it KNOWING it can’t tell the difference between covid, flu, the common cold, and healthy snot. Here’s what’s in the new “Made in China” test kits: https://anycalculator.com/deadlytestkit.html. Medical tyranny must end and those enforcing it must face consequences: https://www.davidmartin.world/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/The-Criminal-Conspiracy-of-Coronavirus.pdf

  6. Staff did not “stand aside”. The video that was released shows four jailers piled on top of Steven Neuroth* in the jail cell, one officer, on one side of his lower body, repeatedly punching him as he flailed in panic, while the jail nurse (sister of one of the jailers) stood by the doorway and did not verbally intervene. Every single on of the those jailers were larger—bulkier—than Steve Neuroth*. (Turns out: the punches have an official name, indicating they are used to get the “attention” of a captive who refuses to do what they have been ordered to do. In this case: enter the jail cell and then stop resisting, once he was pinned to the cold floor.) The Willits police officer who had arrested Steven Neuroth, stood by, watching, and at one point says something to the effect that he wished he could get a punch in. Steven was arrested for walking down the street, late at night, without a shirt on. While he was being transported, the Willits officer deliberately tried to rile him up with talk about snakes. (He brags about it to the other officers). The Willits cop was finally fired for some other wrongdoing, but not until well after the civil case.

  7. Steve had also become homeless and wasn’t able to get to his medical/ mental health appointments to refill his medications and that played a part in his mental state. Steve was such a gentle soul he NEVER fought and never would have struck anyone. Those who knew him KNOW that. This was a merciless incident. Steve didn’t even believe in stealing he was a good person. One of the most trustworthy even with his meth habit. He also had what I now know as a premonition dream that ended up being how he was murdered. If you knew Steve speak up.

    ❤️‍🩹🌷 I wish I could’ve helped you Steve. 😭
    You were a special person and a good friend.

    ♥️ Mental illness DOESNT define a person.

    Evil does

  8. There is no such thing as mental health. Normal is following like good sheep. Crazy people change the world and create beauty.. I’m not the messiah I’m just his stunt double

  9. I don’t follow man made gods. Until I find a church that loves the Hebrew bible without dogma. Few Christians read the book. Every church I’ve gone to asks me to leave when I open that book

    • 🥰🌷🙏Well I just wanted to let you know that I was praying for you. This is my last day here in the comment section.The “real” world is calling and I’ve got to go….. bye Douglas.

    • @Doug- One last thing, Jesus Christ was seen of over 500 witnesses after his death and crucifixion and before he ascended to the Father God. (Soon to return) According to the Bible which you only believe in half of. In the original language, respectively.

      And yes you’re right a lot of Christians in name only don’t read their Bibles.The Bible says that the Lord will say to people depart from me I never knew you.

  10. Jim Jones was seen by 900 witnesses
    I don’t drink the Koolaid of religions that rely on censorship and propaganda.
    Ez 23:20 donkey dicks and horse semen. The reproductive organ of tyranny

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a journalist for the everyman. Journalism has become a craft practiced largely by the urban elite. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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