The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced Friday it will release thousands of prisoners early in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in state prisons.
The department estimates 8,000 prisoners could be eligible for release by the end of August. In order to be eligible, inmates must meet the following criteria:
· Have 180 days or less to serve on their sentence
· Are not currently serving time for domestic violence or a violent crime as defined by law
· Have no current or prior sentences that require them to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290
CDCR is also reviewing for release incarcerated persons with 365 days or less to serve on their sentence with similar criteria.
"I am very troubled that victims of crime and other law abiding citizens who are doing everything they can to follow state and local directives in order to stay safe and healthy will now have to wonder if they will become the next victim of a career criminal who was released early from serving their prison sentence," said San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow.
Dow was quick to point out inmates with prior convictions for offenses like domestic violence, elder abuse, child abuse, and human trafficking for labor, which are not classified as 'violent,' may be among those released early.
Supporters of the move are praising the decision. "After witnessing the deadly effects of COVID-19 inside California's dangerously overcrowded prisons, Governor Newsom's plan is the right decision to help protect the lives of people living and working inside prisons and in surrounding communities," said Anne Irwin, director of Smart Justice California.
"Our compassion for prisoners cannot outweigh our compassion for victims of crime and law abiding citizens," Dow said.
CDCR has stated all individuals will be tested for COVID-19 within seven days of release. CDCR is 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.