Officials said California would release about 8,000 prisoners early in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus in state correctional facilities, with more than half of them expected to return to society by the end of July.
The government Ministry of Reform and Rehabilitation said in a statement that the move would allow prisons to use the extra space to impose social separation rules, isolation and quarantine procedures.
“These measures are being taken to provide for the health and safety of residents and incarcerated employees,” said Ralph Diaz, Secretary of the CDCR Center. We aim to implement these pressure relief measures in a manner consistent with public health and safety.
The Ministry estimates that 8,000 inmates can be released by the end of August, provided they meet several criteria. Prisoners who have been serving a one-year sentence or less are eligible for early release. Those who have been convicted of violent crimes and sexual crimes are not.
The commission said that anyone released from prison would be tested to ensure that no virus was found within seven days of returning to society.
Several states chose to release some prisoners early, amid an increase in injuries in correctional institutions. California has reduced its prison population by 10,000 since mid-March, when the COVID-19 pandemic first sparked government protection measures in the United States.
The state prison system has reported 5,841 coronavirus among prisoners, which has increased by 864 in the past two weeks.
In San Quentin State Prison in the San Francisco Bay Area, injuries among prisoners rose after 121 detainees were transferred from the California Men’s Institute in Chino, which reported hundreds of cases in crowded conditions.
A third of the 3,500 San Quentin prisoners were positive for COVID-19 after the transfer.
Ann Irwin, director of the smart nonprofit advocacy group, California, praised Friday’s announcement, which she said “will protect the lives of people who live and work in prisons and in the surrounding communities.
“We commend the judge on working on two critical fronts: removing the most vulnerable people by harm and stopping the spread of COVID-19 within prisons and neighboring communities,” Irwin said in a statement.