Jul 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

California to release up to 8,000 inmates to prevent coronavirus outbreaks in prisons

California Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sacramento in February.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sacramento in February. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced on Friday plans to expedite the release of as many as 8,000 inmates as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.

Why it matters: The state's government is facing increased pressure from lawmakers and activists to limit the spread of the virus among California's prisoners and prison staff, Politico reports.

What they're saying: "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. "We aim to implement these decompression measures in a way that aligns both public health and public safety."

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that prisons cannot release inmates who do not have anywhere to go when they return to society.
  • “What I can’t do is release people to the streets and sidewalks and parks and benches and call that compassion,” Newsom said, according to Politico.

The big picture: The state prison system currently reports that 5,881 inmates have contracted the coronavirus, while 1,243 prison employees have been infected.

  • More than a third of the inmates and staff at the San Quentin State Prison in the San Francisco Bay Area tested positive for COVID-19 as of July 4. Some officials have called it the worst prison health crisis in the state's history, according to NPR.

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