Sacramento, CA – The State of California estimates it will have granted early release to approximately 18,000 inmates by the end of August in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in state prison facilities.
Approximately 10,000 state inmates have already been turned loose since California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency back in March, the Washington Examiner reported.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said that 39 of its approximately 115,000 inmates – 0.033 percent – have died due to the novel coronavirus so far.
Less than two percent of the prison population is currently testing positive, according to CDCR.
The CDCR claimed that its “pandemic emergency decompression efforts” were taken “to provide for the health and safety of the incarcerated population and staff,” the Washington Examiner reported.
CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said that the department aims “to implement these decompression measures in a way that aligns both public health and public safety,” according to the news outlet.
Registered sex offenders and inmates convicted of violent crimes are supposed to be ineligible for release from the state’s prisons.
However, California’s criminal justice reform laws have been granting earlier parole to violent offenders and high-risk sex offenders, and county jails have been releasing those offenders who violate their parole, according to the CDCR.
The first 10,000 prisoners released into the community were within six months of their projected prison release date, the Washington Examiner reported.
The next 8,000 inmates to be released will be within one year of their previously projected prison release date, and they must serve the balance of their sentence on probation.
Inmates who are 30 or older and meet all other criteria “are immediately eligible for release,” the CDCR said, according to NPR.
California’s state prison system operates 44 conservation/fire camps, four youth facilities, and 35 adult facilities, the Washington Examiner reported.
Counties have not yet been notified regarding the exact number of offenders who will be coming to their communities due to the mass releases, but the highest numbers are expected to end up in Riverside and Hemet, KNBC reported.
Riverside County Chief Probation Officer Ron Miller said his community is scrambling to prepare to receive as many as 500 of the released inmates.
“We need additional funding to manage the surge,” Chief Miller told the Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, according to KNBC.
“We need to assist this new group of clients coming into the community,” he added, referring to the job, housing, and healthcare needs of the parolees.
According to the CDCR, 177 of the inmates who have walked out of prison early thus far were positive for COVID-19 at the time they were released.