MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says the Hennepin County Jail's population has been reduced by one quarter in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Officials say they only released inmates who "are not a danger to public safety."
Prosecutors worked to let go inmates who were waiting for their court appearances, did not have any records of violence, and were in custody for "relatively minor felonies."
The average daily population in the jail fell from 815 last Monday to 602 on Friday morning, according to Freeman.
The Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation says people who have been convicted of a crime and are spending up to a year in the county workhouse as part of their sentence could also be moved into electronic home monitoring.
Freeman released the following statement to the media on Monday:
A significant number of inmates leave every morning to go to their jobs. They are required to return to the workhouse at night and sleep in a cell. It would make sense to fit them with an electronic bracelet so they could return home after work.
If this virus is so serious that we are emptying government buildings, sports arenas and restaurants in order to halt the spread, it only makes sense to release people who are unlikely to pose a threat to the public. Taking these steps will protect the health of those working in the facilities, the health of the prisoners and ultimately, the health of all the residents in the county.
Nothing has changed in regard to people committing crimes. All police agencies are arresting people committing the crimes and the charging standards at the county attorney's office are unchanged from what they were before the COVID-19 crisis. Moreover, as recently stated by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, prosecutors will be actively charging individuals who defraud others through coronavirus scams.
The Juvenile Prosecution Division is also undergoing a similar type of review to ensure that only youth who pose a public safety risk are detained.
Crime victims can contact a victim/witness phone line at 612-348-4003 with questions about their cases.
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