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Victims’ families outraged after California releases thousands of inmates early to slow spread of COVID-19

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — “It’s like losing my brother all over again.”

Dena Love is talking about the early release of the woman convicted of the 1998 murder of her brother John. Originally sentenced to 84 years to life, Terebea Williams was just freed last week under California’s COVID-19 early release program after serving a quarter of that time.

“He was only 23 at the time so she was in jail less time than he was alive and that is appalling to me,” Love said.

So far more than 11,000 inmates have been released early to curb the spread of COVID-19 and another 6,500 are being considered for early release.

“We drastically need to bring down the population in an urgent manner as we can safely,” Prison reform advocate James King said.

With more than 8,500 inmates testing positive for COVID-19 across California, a thousand of them in the last two weeks, prison reform advocates say early release is necessary and they take issue with the type of people being released.

“The fact that a person committed a violent act 25 years ago doesn’t mean they are violent today,” King said.

But taking into account the health risks of an inmate staying in prison, is not something Dena Love is willing to consider.

“My brother’s safety was not of any concern to her when she kidnapped him and brutally tortured and murdered him,” Love said.

In addition to safety concerns, victims rights advocates are also concerned with so many inmates coming out at once there are not enough support systems in place to allow them to succeed. 

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