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San Quentin inmates petition to be released due to coronavirus concerns

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — More than 40 inmates at San Quentin have asked the court to grant them an early release.

This comes as another COVID-19 related death is reported at the state prison.

23 inmates have now died of coronavirus.

75 new cases at San Quentin in the last two weeks. Attorneys representing these inmates say more of them need to be released for everyone’s safety.

“There’s no such thing as six foot distancing in an overcrowded prison,” Attorney Danielle Harris said. “That’s just not possible.”

Danielle Harris is an attorney with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, which is representing the 42 inmates.

More inmates have died of coronavirus at San Quentin than any other prison in the state.

And now — more than 40 people who are incarcerated here have filed petitions for the court to order the prison to release them.

“They are not suing the county, they are not suing the state, they are not asking for any monetary damages or any damages at all they are asking to be free of cruel and unusual punishment,” Harris said.

Because of the situation at San Quentin resulting in the 23rd death Wednesday, California state prison officials say as many as 17,600 inmates may be released early due to COVID-19 — that’s 70-percent more than previously estimated and a total that victims and police say includes dangerous criminals who should stay locked up.

Harris says she’s not concerned about the release of the inmates she is representing.

“If we were concerned that they were violent people today, violent criminals today, we would not be making a credible case for their release,” Harris said.

Harris says not enough inmates are being released, and the conditions in the prison are not good.

Her clients range from 25 to 65 years old — some with medical conditions.

None of them qualify for the early release program.

“I am hopeful that the judge will step in,” Harris said.

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