KTVU – FOX2 /Lisa Fernandez

Civil rights attorneys announced on Thursday what they believe is the first claim against the California prison system stemming from the botched transfer and the resulting coronavirus-related death of a Sacramento man held at San Quentin.

The claim was brought by the children and mother of Daniel Ruiz, 61, one of at least 26 prisoners and staff who have died from COVID-19 at San Quentin. That’s nearly half the 59 people held in California prisons who have died of coronavirus.

Attorney Michael Haddad told KTVU that Ruiz had been in on a minor, non-violent drug crime since Jan. 20. He died July 11 of coronavirus.

Four months before his death, Ruiz had been given an early release notice for good behavior, according to his family’s claim. It’s unclear why he wasn’t released or when his release date might have been. He also suffered from asthma Haddad said that advocates had been calling for the release of non-violent prisoners like Ruiz from the early onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The tragedy of this is that this could have been avoided if people like Mr. Ruiz were simply treated like human beings,” Haddad said. “Like caring whether or not they catch COVID. A lot of prison bureaucrats think these people are expendable.”

Haddad said he believes this is the first claim against the prison system related to coronavirus.

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