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Thousands Of Inmates Slated For Release To Combat COVID-19 Prison Spread

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Sacramento, CA – As California sees a spike in coronavirus cases in prisons, nearly 8,000 inmates could be eligible for release by the end of August.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has already reduced its population by about 10,000 since the start of the pandemic in March to reduce the risk of transmission within facilities. That was achieved by releasing around 3,500 inmates in April who were within 60 days or less of the end of their sentence a the rest by suspending intake from county jails. In a memo to inmates released Thursday by CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz, it outlined a “12-week credit” that applies “to everyone in CDCR custody” except those who are on death row, serving life-without-parole, or who have a serious rules violation between March 1 and July 5.

Under those guidelines, an estimated 108,000 inmates are eligible for the credit. That breaks down to about 2,100 inmates that will be granted the one-time three-month credit from July to September. It follows other measures that are expected to quickly lead to the release of about 8,300 inmates six months before they normally would have been paroled.

“To continue to effectively fight this virus, we must create more space in our prisons, both to expand physical distancing to slow COVID-19’s spread and to ease some of the immense challenges staff face every day,” relayed Diaz in the memo.

In all, California’s efforts could free nearly 10-percent of prisoners as Gov. Gavin Newsom responds to intensifying pressure from advocates, lawmakers and federal judges to allow the releases. Newsom criticized those calling for freeing inmates without careful consideration. “When people are just saying just release thousands and thousands of people, I hope they’re being thoughtful and considerate of not only the victims but the prospects of people re-offending,” cautioned Newsom.

The governor also acknowledged that there is an urgent need to “decompress the system in a judicious and thoughtful way” especially with an outbreak in San Quentin impacting 1,300 inmates, including seven that have died. To date, 2,300 inmates in California have contracted the coronavirus and 31 have died. The CDCR discloses that it has lost 32 employees to the virus, click here.

To read the CDCR secretary’s entire release with the directives for prisoner releases and past efforts for reducing prison populations for the “safety of inmates and staff,” click here.

Earlier this year, Tuolumne and Calaveras County released a total of 24 inmates from their jails to help reduce jail populations in an effort by the governor to protect against the spread of coronavirus. As reported here, Tuolumne released ten prisoners while Calaveras freed 14, as detailed here.

  • Secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Ralph Diaz