California is set to free around 8,000 prisoners early in a bid to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, according to state officials.
The move is expected to see over half of the prisoners return to society by the end of this month.
Releasing prisoners early will help improve social distancing rules, isolation, and quarantine measures, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“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.”
Foxnews.com reports: The department estimates 8,000 inmates could be released by the end of August, providing they meet several criteria. Prisoners with a year or less left on their sentences are eligible for early release. Those with convictions of violent felonies and sex crimes are not.
Anyone released from custody will be tested for the virus within seven days of their return to society, the CDCR said.
Several states have opted to release some prison inmates early amid a surge in infections in correctional institutions. California has reduced its prison population by 10,000 since mid-March, when the COVID-19 pandemic first triggered government protection measures in the United States.
As of Friday, the state prison system reported 5,841 coronaviruses among inmates, which increased by 864 in the past two weeks.
In San Quentin State Prison in San Francisco’s Bay Area, infections among prisoners soared after the transfer of 121 inmates from the California Institution for Men in Chino, which reported hundreds of cases amid crowded conditions.
A third of San Quentin’s 3,500 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 following the transfer.
Anne Irwin, director of nonprofit advocacy group Smart Justice California, applauded Friday’s announcement, which she said will “protect the lives of people living and working inside prisons and in surrounding communities.”
“We applaud the Governor for working on two crucial fronts: getting the most vulnerable people out of harm’s way and stemming the spread of COVID-19 inside prisons and neighboring communities,” Irwin said in a statement.