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California to release 8,000 inmates in effort to slow coronavirus outbreak

Prison in the time of coronavirus
Prison in the time of coronavirus 07:35

As many as 8,000 inmates could be released from California prisons as the coronavirus pandemic spreads throughout the state correctional system, the state's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Friday.

"This is absolutely critical for the health and safety of every Californian. Too many people are incarcerated for too long in facilities that spread poor health," Jay Jordan, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, said in a statement.

The decision comes days after the prison system's top medical officer was replaced following criticism that inmate transfers fueled the outbreak in state facilities. As of Friday, 2,315 inmates have been sickened by the virus, and 31 have died, according to the department. 

Governor Gavin Newsom, in a news conference this week, said inmates from the California Institution for Men in Chino "should not have been transferred" to the San Quentin State Prison in late May.

Approximately 10,000 inmates have been released across the state in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. 

To be eligible for release, inmates must have 180 days or less left on their sentence, must not be serving time for domestic violence or a violent crime or be considered a high-risk for violence, the department said.

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