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.
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.