FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — State prison officials say the number of inmates released early due to COVID-19 may hit nearly 18,000 by the end of the month, which is 70% more than previously estimated.
Attorney David Mugridge said jails and prisons are inevitable hotbeds for the virus.
“We can’t just sweep it under the rug. If we did nothing it wouldn’t take very long for every inmate in every California prison and every California jail to be infected,” he said.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it’s trying to protect vulnerable inmates and staff, by potentially releasing another 8,000 prisoners who meet certain criteria such as remaining sentence length, age and health risks.
They hope to free up more space for distancing and quarantine.
“I’m most worried and concerned about families and victims of crime. Remember the people that are being released include some very violent serious offenders including people who have committed murders,” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said.
She said about 70% of the prison population reoffends and is back behind bars within three years and adds this action will give no time for anyone to prepare.
“Normally when someone is being released from prison there’s time — There’s time to make sure they have adequate housing, they have maybe a job, they have family preparation,” she said.
So far eight correctional officers and just over 50 California inmates have died from COVID-19.
“It affects the officers who patrol them. It affects the people they come into contact with at the court, when they’re brought over to the court. So we have to do something, and it may not be what anybody really wants to do, but what choices do we have?,” Mugridge said.
Mims said she’ll be asking the state what their plans to supervise the released inmates are, because right now local agencies plates are full.