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Dozens of local inmates could soon be released without posting bail

The rule was adopted Monday and goes into effect at 5 p.m.
Posted at 4:05 PM, Apr 13, 2020

Approximately 50 inmates at the San Luis Obispo County Jail awaiting trial are eligible for release under a zero bail rule adopted Monday by the Judicial Council of California, the sheriff's office said Monday.

The rule, intended to reduce the jail population and limit the spread of COVID-19, goes into effect at 5 p.m. Monday.

While some crimes are exempt, misdemeanor and lower-level felony offenses are not, including: child abuse, elder abuse and violating public health orders.

That means inmates being held on those charges could be eligible for release without posting any bail.

The California State Sheriff’s Association says sheriffs across the state oppose the rule.

“Although the Sheriff’s Office is obligated to enforce this new rule, it strongly disagrees with that decision,” Parkinson said in a press release. “I believe this rule has the potential to reduce the safety and security of not only our local communities and neighborhoods but all across the state.”

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow says about 30 written motions for the eligible cases were filed and started being heard Monday afternoon in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court in an effort to keep the alleged offenders behind bars.

Other motions will be heard again Tuesday morning and afternoon.

“This new zero bail rule is dangerous for our community because it mandates zero bail for many violent or dangerous crimes that are not legally defined as serious or violent like child abuse, elder abuse, burglary and even drug trafficking near our children’s schools. Even career criminals are eligible for zero bail and released into our community because there are no exceptions for inmates who are on parole or for career criminals with prior convictions for violent, serious and sex offenses,” Dow said in a press release. “My office is working vigorously to oppose release on zero bail for inmates we believe are dangerous to release. We are working closely with the Sheriff’s Office to identify which inmates may be eligible for release. The Sheriff’s Office medical and mental health team is working hard to ensure that anyone released who is receiving treatment in the jail will have a plan to continue treatment in the community, but this is a significant challenge and a risk for the released individuals as well as for the community."

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson says in response to the shelter-at-home order, his department has increased patrol deputies on the streets by about 75 percent by removing them from specialized investigative units for the time being.

While Parkinson says this move is not sustainable, he’s committed to doing it as long as necessary to help keep the public safe.

There are currently no cases of COVID-19 in the San Luis Obispo County Jail, Parkinson said Monday afternoon.

Eligible inmates in Santa Barbara County are estimated at less than 75, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office, which says 17 oppositions have been filed, but it's unknown when a decision will be made.