SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced Friday that thousands of currently incarcerated persons could be eligible for release by end of August.
The action, according to a CDCR press release, would allow the agency to “protect its most vulnerable population and staff from COVID-19.”
Prison officials are under increased pressure after a series of COVID-19 outbreaks at state correctional facilities, including a recent outbreak at San Quentin that has infected more than a thousand inmates and killed eight.
CDCR estimated Friday that as many as 8,000 currently incarcerated persons could be eligible for release next month. The action would “allow state prisons to maximize available space to implement physical distancing, isolation and quarantine efforts,” prison officials stated.
The department said the new measures are part of “decompressing facilities.” CDCR’s previous pandemic emergency decompression efforts have reduced inmate populations system-wide by approximately 10,000, reducing 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. “We aim to implement these decompression measures in a way that aligns both public health and public safety.”
Under release authority granted to the CDCR Secretary, which allows alternative confinement or release in any case in which an emergency endangering the lives of incarcerated persons has occurred or is imminent, CDCR is pursuing a series of what officials labeled “cohorted release efforts.”
“Some categories of releases will require additional review for certain incarcerated persons, and some cohorts will be screened on a rolling basis.” CDCR officials also emphasized that inmates convicted of more serious crimes, including sex offenses, will not be released under the proposed action.
All individuals will be tested for COVID-19 within seven days of release. CDCR officals said they are working closely with “stakeholders, local law enforcement partners, and other agencies to leverage state and federal resources for housing in the community to help meet the reentry needs of these individuals.”
For all those released under these efforts, prison officials plan to make victim notifications in accordance with all CDCR procedures and state law.