Roughly 8,000 people incarcerated in state prisons in California could be eligible for early release by the end of August, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announcement Friday.
The decision comes amid a devastating COVID-19 outbreak at San Quentin State Prison and other facilities, with Gov. Gavin Newsom facing mounting pressure from advocates, lawmakers and federal judges to quickly reduce the prison population to enable physical distancing and quarantine efforts.
“These actions are taken to provide for the health and safety of the incarcerated population and staff,” CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said in a statement. âWe aim to implement these decompression measures in a way that aligns both public health and public safety.â
Since May, when a group of prisoners was transferred to San Quentin from the California Institution for Men in Chino, more than 1,600 people incarcerated in the Marin County prison have tested positive for the virus, and at least seven have died. Across California, nearly 6,000 people incarcerated in state prisons have contracted the virus.
Those eligible for early release must have 180 days or less to serve on their sentences and be considered low-risk of violence, in what Newsom promised would be a “very methodical process.” They also cannot currently be serving time for any violent crime, including domestic violence, or for an offense that requires registration as a sex offender.
“This is a positive step to address the COVID-19 humanitarian disaster unfolding in our prison system, and Iâm appreciative that the Governor and prison officials are taking this horrific situation seriously,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, in a statement. “With that said, more work remains. Californiaâs prisons were overcrowded and in urgent need of reduction before the pandemic, and that need is now even more acute.”
– Matthew Green