Terry Smith, a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran with PTSD, multiple health issues and a history of homelessness, spent nearly three years in San Francisco County Jail awaiting trial on a burglary charge. The final several weeks were served in the full flush of a burgeoning viral pandemic.
He considers himself lucky.
“I’m out, and I had a place to go,” Smith said in a telephone interview with Kaiser Health News from the halfway house where he lives. “If you’re in there, you’re just in a breeding ground for infection — and this coronavirus is no game.”
In fact, the jail where Smith was held has profoundly thinned its population, part of a dramatic release of inmates from California prisons and jails aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, which can race through institutional populations with deadly impact.