California to release 8,000 prisoners due to COVID-19

Residents inch their way onto the Dodger Stadium parking lot where a new COVID-19 testing site was opened in Los Angeles on May 26. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

July 11 (UPI) — California announced plans Friday to release an additional 8,000 prisoners in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus in state prisons.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it has determined up to 8,000 inmates could be eligible for release by the end of August. The state is taking the step to make additional space in prisons to allow for better physical distancing between inmates.

California prisons have had 5,842 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 31 deaths and 3,368 recoveries.

“These actions are taken to provide for the health and safety of the incarcerated population and staff,” CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said. “We aim to implement these decompression measures in a way that aligns both public health and public safety.”

The state said all inmates will be tested for COVID-19 within seven days of release. The corrections department also plans to work with local agencies to ensure there’s housing for those released.

Up to 4,800 people with 180 days or less left to serve of their sentence could be released if they’re not serving time for a violent crime, don’t have to register as a sex offender and don’t indicate a high risk for violence.

Inmates at prisons with a “large” population of high-risk patients also may be released under similar conditions if they have up to a year left of their sentence to serve.

Inmates who are 30 years old or older and meet those conditions are immediately eligible for release. Those 29 or younger may be eligible after review. CDCR also will take into account an inmate’s medical risk.

The new releases are in addition to the state’s reduction of about 10,000 inmates since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We’re glad the governor is taking action to release more people, said Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice. “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.”


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