Home>Articles>California Letting Out More Prisoners Over COVID in Second Wave of Early Release Program

Chuckawalla Valley State Prison. (Photo: CDCR)

California Letting Out More Prisoners Over COVID in Second Wave of Early Release Program

Lawyer says the release was good but didn’t go far enough

By Evan Gahr, June 18, 2020 11:17 am

California is releasing some prisoners early to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the Golden State’s jails.

The jail birds will be sprung starting July 1, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The idea is to free up space so inmates won’t be in the kind of close confines that leads to greater likelihood those infected would contaminate others.

The Department said that the early release is designed “to amplify actions to protect staff and inmates at the state’s prisons from the spread of COVID-19.”

Only non-violent offenders with 180 days or less on their sentences remaining are going to be released. They can’t be doing time for domestic violence or being sex offenders.

Under the “community supervision program” for the sprung jail birds they must have places to reside. The Department said that they will “remain under close supervision for the duration of their sentences” either by county agencies or parole officers, the Department said.  They can be returned to jail at any time for any reason.

So far 3,200 inmates and 500 staffers have tested positive for Corona.

The largest contagion was at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, in Blythe and the California Institution for Men in Chino.  There were 1,003 cases at Chuckawalla and 802 at the Chino Institution.

17 prisoners have succumbed to the disease.

The Department did not specify exactly how many inmates would be freed early.  But San Francisco area based civil rights lawyer Michael Bien, who works with many prisoners and prisoner groups, told the California Globe that he believed thousands would be released.

He said the release was good but didn’t go far enough.

“California prisons are still dangerously overcrowded and need significant and targeted population reduction efforts to save more lives from death or serious injury from COVID-19.  The early release program will only result in a reduction of 3500 over 6 months, leaving California still far above.  Nor is it targeted on the medically vulnerable—people who due to their age or preexisting medical vulnerabilities are known to be at risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19 infections.”

This is the second wave of releases. In April 3,500 non-violent offenders were sprung to reduce overcrowding.

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6 thoughts on “California Letting Out More Prisoners Over COVID in Second Wave of Early Release Program

  1. One Party Rule strikes again!
    No wonder the gun shops are doing a brisk business.
    So I hope those of you who support the JFK wanna be, Newsom aka THE JERK and his likeminded minions are now seeing the whole picture!
    1. Small Business owners BAD
    Looters Rioters GOOD

    2. Free thinkers BAD
    Group Think GOOD

    3. Government Dependent GOOD
    Self Sufficient BAD

    4. Peace Officers Bad
    Repeat Criminals FREED

    So do you feel safe? Do you leave your front door unlocked.? Do you let your kid ride their bike alone to visit a friend? Do you let Grandma travel alone at night?

  2. Even by the artificial standards of the original Three Judge Panel (3 very liberal federal judges) that runs the state prison system, prison overcrowding (let alone “dangerous” overcrowding) in California ended almost 5 and a half years ago. Between expanded and re-expanded Youthful Offender Parole, Elderly Parole, Prop. 57 early releases, expanded Medical Parole, Compassionate Releases, PC 1170.1 sentence recalls, SB 1437, Brown/Newsom clemency, and the efforts of the Board of Parole Hearings (last month they had parole grant rate for Lifer inmates over 40%), we already have far too many paths for early prison release. I suspect this latest effort has far less to do with COVID-19 safety (never mind public safety) than it does with the Governor’s desire to close prisons.

    1. hi bill, california prisons are at about 124% capacity, even after shifting their populations to local jails through realignment. the governor has actually been pretty intransigent about releases; this is a sliver of what’s necessary to shrink carceral budgets and release enough people to be able to socially distance in prison.

  3. OFUCG, this seems pretty reductive but your point is pretty clear. i think something that gets lost in these dialogues is the fact that the folks he is freeing would be coming home *anyway* in 3 months. your tirade against filling the streets with criminals seems a little dramatic–-it’s literally the same people who would be free in September are free now. none of them were sentenced to die, which they are at-risk of, in addition to severe illness, at the hands of COVID. 90% of people in prison will in fact come home someday. at any rate, let me fix this for you:

    1. Small Business owners GOOD now uplift Black bussinessfolk
    Looters Rioters WE FINALLY SEE HOW BAD THINGS ARE, now we get it

    2. Free thinkers BAD when you think “freedom” means only your freedom, or the freedom to make choices that endanger vulnerable communities.
    Group Think GOOD when people work as a collective toward a national goal of less than 200k people dying from a global pandemic

    3. Government Dependent GOOD if of course we could depend on the government to do anything effectively
    Self Sufficient BAD OPPORTUNITIES for Black folks who literally built this country for free

    4. “Peace” Officers BAD BEHAVIOR killing all kinds of people and doing a shitty all around job and taking zero accountability for it
    Repeat Criminals FREED because nobody should be defined by their worst mistake, they belong with their families and it’s time for them to go home.

  4. Hi B,
    I am sorry but I think you may have missed my point. IMO, our Governor is taking advantage of the COVID19 pandemic to shorten prison sentences and potentially make our cities less safe.

    Simply put I believe in law and order.

    Interesting you had to interject race into the conversation. I never mentioned any race and do not subscribe to identity politics. I identify as an American citizen.

    I think maybe we can agree on at least one point, the largess of big government is ineffective.

    Interesting take on my statements that did not need “fixing”.

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