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Inmates could be released early to protect prison system from coronavirus

California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KRON) – Governor Gavin Newsom is deciding whether the state should release some inmates early to ease coronavirus pressures off the state prison system.

This comes as five corrections workers and an inmate recently tested positive for the virus.

As the coronavirus continues its spread throughout California, state prisons are having a tougher time social distancing, isolating and taking other precautions the rest of the population is demanded to do.

“We don’t want the pandemic to breakout inside of the prisons,” Michael Bien said.

Attorney Michael Bien is part of a Prison Pandemic Task Force which has been meeting every day. 

Bien says the governor needs to act immediately to ease crowding in California prisons by releasing some inmates.

“Some of the obvious places to start are using the medical parole process, looking at the people who are in hospice, who have applied for compassionate release because they’re very vulnerable and if they catch the virus, they’ll require hospitalization immediately,” Bien said.

As California braces for a surge of COVID-19 patients, Governor Newsom made it clear violent inmates will not be released but says he’ll carefully consider other options.

“I won’t use a crisis as an excuse to create another crisis. If we start to release prisoners that are not prepared, they may end up out on the street and sidewalks or in a homeless shelter, if we don’t get them back on their feet, they may end up in our emergency rooms clogging the system we’re trying to address in the first place,” Newsom said. 

Officials for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation say the department continues to develop measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including deep cleaning and verbal screening of anyone entering facilities.

Officials say executives and staff are working with infectious disease control experts to prepare for a scenario where the coronavirus could significantly affect operations. 

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