Nearly 18,000 Inmates Could Be Released Early From California Prisons Due To The Pandemic

Nearly 18,000 Inmates Could Be Released Early From California Prisons Due To The Pandemic

A spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said the potential number of early releases totals to 17,600.

Image Source: Getty Images/Halfdark (Representative)

In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the increasing number of cases, the state of California might release a total of 17,600 inmates early to create space in their crowded facilities. The news comes as California continues to see a steep rise in cases as it recently surpassed other US states and became the highest one after recording over 541,000 COVID-19 cases. Speaking to Fox News, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said, "In total, 8,032 [inmates] have had their releases expedited and overall, we have reduced the total incarcerated population by more than 18,300 since March as a result of suspension of county jail intake, the expedited release" and the ones released in accordance with their sentences. 



Back in July, Jay Johnson, the Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice Executive issued a statement saying, "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." In April, the first batch of 3,500 inmates was released to create more space in the crowded penitentiaries and in early July another 6,900 were deemed eligible to be freed early. Thus, leading to 10,400 releases.


In addition, it could also include "700 eligible offenders who have less than one year to serve who reside within identified institutions that house large populations of high-risk patients" and "approximately 6,500 persons identified by the court-appointed Federal Receiver as medically high-risk for complications should they contract COVID-19," revealed the spokesperson of the CDRC. So, the potential number of early releases totals to 17,600. "This is not a blanket release, the point-in-time numbers are just a step in the review process as the department works tirelessly to conduct these releases in a way that aligns public health and public safety," continued the spokesperson. 


The estimation of the total releases was increased by the officials from 10,400 to 17,600, per a filing last week with a federal judge overseeing one of the major lawsuits opposing the prison system. That being said, Corrections Secretary Ralph Diaz is likely to stop the release of around 5,500, in part as there are many serving life prison sentences, say prison officials. Measures are ought to be taken as almost 2,000 state prison system employees have already been infected of which eight have died. 

Sergeant Seeyengkee Ly was the latest victim who died on August 2 after developing severe pneumonia complications. He worked at the Valley State Prison in Chowchilla. The officials in the state have been under immense pressure ever since the pandemic broke out. State lawmakers and advocates have been pushing for the release of more inmates, especially after the deadliest breakout in the state's oldest prison San Quentin State Prison. As of Tuesday morning, at least 168 inmates are still infected and 23 have lost their lives. But at the peak of the outbreak 1,636 infections, over a third of the institution's population, had tested positive, reports The Guardian


Between March and June, over 100,000 prisoners were freed from state and federal prisons. Police departments across the country were required to revamp their operations due to the coronavirus infections, which included making arrests requiring less contact or avoiding prosecutions for low-level crimes by people to prevent the prison from overcrowding. California Police Chiefs Association president Eric Nuñez has raised alarm about the release of some dangerous criminals, stating that he understands the urgency of reducing the number of prisoners in penitentiaries by freeing some violent criminals "without a consideration for the larger impact on public safety." Furthermore, he said that the chiefs are willing to work with prison officials to improve the process of decision making. 

Disclaimer: Information about the pandemic is swiftly changing, and McGill Media is committed to providing the most recent and verified updates in our articles and reportage. However, considering the frequency in developments, some of the information/data in this article may have changed since the time of publication. Therefore, we encourage you to also regularly check online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization.

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