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Thousands of California Prison Inmates to be Released due to COVID-19 Outbreaks

Heads up California! The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has announced that several inmates will be released from the state prison system due to the coronavirus. Officials stated the release is occurring to protect its most vulnerable prison inmates and staff by maximizing all space possible to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Through a statement, Jay Jordan, Executive Director, Californians for Safety and Justice stated, “We’re glad the Governor is taking action to release more people. This is absolutely critical for the health and safety of every Californian. Too many people are incarcerated for too long in facilities that spread poor health. Supporting the health and safety of all Californians means releasing people unnecessarily incarcerated and transforming our justice system.”

CDCR’s previous coronavirus pandemic emergency decompression efforts reduced inmate population systems by 10,000 to reduce the risk of transmission within its facilities. According to CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz, the actions were taken to provide the safety and health of those incarcerated and the staff. He noted, “We aim to implement these decompression measures in a way that aligns both public health and public safety.”

There are several releases that require additional review for certain cases, but CDCR has estimated there are currently 8,000 incarcerated people who are eligible for release. The department stated all released inmates will be tested for COVID-19 seven days after their release. The CDCR is making victim notifications in accordance with all CDCR procedures and state law for those who will be released. In order to be eligible the inmate must meet the following criteria:

  • Have 180 days or less to serve on their sentence
  • Are not currently serving time for domestic violence or a violent crime as defined by law
  • Have no current or prior sentences that require them to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290
  • Not have an assessment score that indicates a high risk for violence

The releases do exclude sex offenders, violent and serious felons, and those inmates who are convinced of domestic violence as part of “a very methodical process.” Despite the announcement of the releases due to the COVID19-outbreak, Executive Director of Crime Victims Alliance, Christine Ward, stated she was concerned at the rate of releases. She noted, “We believe that COVID-19 has presented this administration with a perfect storm to use in efforts to empty out California State Prisons and close prisons. This pandemic should not be used as a launching board to empty prisons as ultimately it will negatively impact the public’s safety.”

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Silke  Jasso About the author:
Silke Jasso is a bilingual editor, writer, producer, and journalist specialized in online media. Born in Laredo Texas, her previous works include LareDOS Newspaper where she was an editor and writer and Entravision Communications where she was a Co-Anchor and Multi-Media Journalist for Fox39 News and Univision 27.
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