California to Release 18,000 Prisoners to Avoid Covid Infection

Prison, Moldova, June 2014. Photo: UNAIDS Photographer D.Gutu
Prison, Moldova, June 2014. Photo: UNAIDS Photographer D.Gutu

By RMN News Service

In order to contain the spread of coronavirus contagion in prisons, nearly 18,000 prisoners will be released by the California state administration.

According to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), 8,000 inmates will be eligible for release by the end of August, in addition to the release of 10,000 prisoners who will be allowed to go as part of the health emergency declared in March by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The CDCR says its decision to release the prisoners is aimed to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission within its facilities. According to the CDCR, of the state’s approximate 115,000 inmates, nearly 2,400 prisoners have tested positive for coronavirus and at least 31 prisoners have died with Covid infection.

Since prisoners who have committed violent crimes, including domestic violence, pose high risk for violence, they are not eligible for early release. Similarly, registered sex offenders will not be released.

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Earlier in May, several UN agency chiefs had highlighted the increased vulnerability to Covid-19 of detainees, and others in confinement. They urged governments to take all appropriate public health measures to keep prisoners safe from the deadly disease.

They also emphasized the need to minimize the occurrence of the disease in these settings and to guarantee that adequate preventive measures are in place to ensure a gender-responsive approach and preventing large outbreaks of Covid-19.

According to CDCR, the first group of prisoners eligible for early release included those who have up to 180 days left of their sentence. The second group includes those with no more than one year of their sentence left to serve. Priority is being given to inmates 30 years old or older.

Inmates will be tested for Covid-19 within seven days of release and offenders will remain under community supervision for the remainder of their sentence. As a prerequisite, the prisoners who are supposed to be released should also have housing arrangement after their release.

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Rakesh Raman