(The center Square) – An estimated 8,000 inmates could be eligible for release by the end of August, in addition to the state’s reduction of about 10,000 inmates since Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in March, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said.
The CDCR says its previous “pandemic emergency decompression efforts” have reduced inmate populations system-wide by approximately 10,000 people already, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission within its facilities.
“These actions are taken to provide for the health and safety of the incarcerated population and staff,” CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said in a news release. “We aim to implement these decompression measures in a way that aligns both public health and public safety.”
According to the CDCR, of the state’s approximate 115,000 inmates, roughly 2,400 prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 31 prisoners have died from COVID-19 related illnesses – accounting for roughly 2 percent and 0.026 percent, respectively, of the inmate population.
The state prison system has more than 17,000 inmates considered medically high risk, according to UCLA School of Law’s Prison Law & Policy Program.
According to a study conducted by UCLA and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, U.S. prison inmates test positive for COVID-19 at a rate 5.5 times higher than that of the general public. Contrary to this report, California prisons have faired better.
The state prison system operates 35 adult detention facilities, 4 youth facilities, and 44 conservation/fire camps.
Since 2017, California’s institutional prison population has been below a mandated target of 137.5 percent of the number of prisoners the system was built to house, but “13 of the 35 state-owned facilities individually operate beyond that capacity,” the Public Policy Institute of California states on its website.
Prisoners who have committed violent crimes, including domestic violence, have been assessed as “high risk for violence,” or are registered sex offenders are ineligible for early release.
The first group of prisoners eligible for early release included those who had 180 days or less left of their sentence to serve. The second group includes those with no more than one year of their sentence left to serve.
Priority is given to inmates 30 years old or older, according to CDCR officials; efforts are ongoing to expedite the remainder of the cases.
Inmates will be tested for COVID-19 within seven days of release, CDCR said, and offenders will remain under community supervision for the remainder of their sentence.
Eligible inmates must have a housing plan in place before their release, and CDCR says it will follow post-release requirements, including making victim notifications in accordance with all CDCR procedures and state law.