"My own prejudice about Pleasant Valley, a misnamed place if there ever was [one], is the rate of disease is so high the site ought to be abandoned," said Johnson. "You cannot tell by looking at someone's skin color what their risk is."
According to an April report by the Receiver's Public Health and Quality Management Units, the Pleasant Valley State Prison had a valley fever infection rate that was 400 times higher than its county's. The Avenal State Prison had an infection rate that was nearly 10 times higher than the county with the highest rate in California.
Between 2006 and 2010, there were a reported 27 inmates who died from the disease in California.
Cases of valley fever have dramatically increased in the U.S. in the past 15 years. In 1998, Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah recorded 2,265 cases; by 2012 that number had increased to 22,401.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.