California is looking at releasing 17,600 inmates early to ease overcrowding in prisons during the coronavirus pandemic.
In April 3,500 inmates were released followed by another 6,900 in July. Currently 700 offenders who have less than one year to serve and 6,500 people who have been classified as high risk by the Federal Receiver are being considered.
The numbers and the estimated total of 17,600 came in a filing last week when officials raised the estimated total from 10,400 with a federal judge.
‘This is not a blanket release, the point-in-time numbers are just a step in the review process as the department works tirelessly to conduct these releases in a way that aligns public health and public safety,’ a CDRC spokesperson told Fox News.
But Corrections Secretary Ralph Diaz is expected to block about 5,500 of the potential releases for reasons including the fact that some are serving life sentences.
One of the 10,400 prisoners already released was Terebea Williams, 44, who served 19 years of an 84 years-to-life sentence for first-degree murder.
She murdered a man, Kevin ‘John’ Ruska, who was driving her to work in 1998 when they argued about something and she forced him into the trunk.
He tried to escape and she shot him, drove him over 700 miles from Tacoma, Washington, to a motel in Davis, California, where he died from the gunshot wound getting infected.
Across the US over 100,000 people have been released from state and federal prisons between March and June.
The California Police Chiefs Association said they recognise the need to reduce the prison population but warns against releasing violent criminals.
Out of the 100,000 releases two people have been shot and killed by released inmates in Denver and Tampa in Florida.
A study led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the number of people in prison who tested positive for coronavirus was 505 times higher than the general US population.
Likewise, the death rate for prisoners that contracted coronavirus was three times higher than the general US population.
Releases are also putting strain on probation officers and community organisations who have to rush to set up housing and transport for people who are released.
The advocacy group Crime Victims Alliance said victims and prosecutors are given no notice about releases and have way to object.
Activists have campaigned to release inmates from prison, especially after a transfer of infected prisoners into San Quentin Prison led to a catastrophic outbreak.
Over 2,000 people were thought to have been infected have now recovered or released while infected.
About 170 inmates are still infected with coronavirus and 23 people in the prison died.
The prison is notoriously overcrowded and its population dropped to below 100,000 people for the first time in 30 years, following the releases.
Additionally, just under 2,000 state prison employees have also been infected with coronavirus and eight of them have died.