‘Human cages’ in California were used by prison service

17 March 2023
What was claimed

Police in California said that what appeared to be human sized cages would be destroyed by October 2020 but in July 2021 they were still there.

Our verdict

In response to concerns following videos of the cages being shared in 2020, local police found the cages were used by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation but had been decommissioned and sold to a local metal recycling business and would be recycled or repurposed. We have found no evidence that the police said they would be destroyed by October 2020.

A video with over 44,000 views on TikTok appears to show large cages and claims they are “human prison cages” that local police had promised “would be destroyed by October of 2020” yet were still there in July 2021. The video is also being shared on Facebook.

The video features two sets of videos, apparently of the same cages. In the first part, the person filming is driving past the cages and someone can be heard saying the cages have toilets in them.

This footage first appeared in 2020, and false claims that the cages were “being used to hold human trafficking victims captive” was fact checked by Reuters at the time.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook in August 2020 saying it had received multiple calls about the cages stored outdoors at a ranch in Caruthers, California.

The post said: “Detectives were able to identify the location of the cages and determined they were formerly used by the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) to provide a safe and secure area for protective custody inmates to participate in outdoor activities. The metal holding cells or “cages” have been retired from service and a local metal recycling business obtained these units directly from CDCR. 

“The holding cells, currently in storage, will eventually be recycled or repurposed by local area farmers to protect agricultural supplies and pumps from theft.”

So while they were arguably human cages, they were no longer in use and had been sold for repurposing.

In the second half of the video, a caption appears saying “Human prison cages in Caruthers Ca.” and then “Sheriff department said that they would be destroyed by Oct of 2020” and claims the footage was recorded on 10 July 2021.

While Full Fact was not able to verify when this footage was recorded or whether the cages are still there, we could find no evidence that the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office ever said the cages would be “destroyed” by October 2020, as the caption claims. 

The Sheriff’s Office didn’t say this on its Facebook page and local news coverage didn’t say this either. Full Fact has contacted the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office for comment.

Image courtesy of Damiano Fiore

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