As of March 31st, California announced they are granting an early release to 3,500 inmates within California’s 35 prisons as an attempt to reduce gathering and stop the spread of the CoronaVirus.
Officials say this move will protect our staff, inmates, and the community at large. Testing began in early March throughout the county’s systems resulting in 22 prison employees having tested positive for COVID-19. The state then reported that eight inmates have tested positive, six of them in Lancaster at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, and one each at North Kern State Prison in Delano and at the California Institution for Men at Chino
I don’t see how this release helps our community in any way. In California, there have been over 880,000 unemployment claims in March alone – a 370% increase from weeks prior. Working class citizens have been laid off, public schools have been suspended, and more than 40 million living in California have been ordered to stay home.
This isn’t exactly the easiest map to navigate for someone freshly out of prison, especially if already working citizens couldn’t even hold onto their jobs. This could then increase the population in homelessness, selling of illegal substances, etc, if we don’t already assume inmates have a home and job waiting for them when they come out.
The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced that the first batch of nonviolent prisoners will be released up to 30 days prior to their parole, while the next group up to 60. Numbers vary within the different jails and trials scheduled.
You would think prison would actually be one of the best places to quarantine people but not according to the corrections agency. Though they have implemented social distancing and suspended visitations, the department will also need to account for additional space within the homeless shelters since the announced release. If the state is already having enough issues within the jail system to comply with the six foot social distancing order for inmates, then there are not many proper solutions in accommodating a large number of released inmates in community supported spaces.
If the state wants to achieve safety and social distancing from this nationwide pandemic, how is it doing so by releasing thousands of people from jail into the streets? Early parole requires individualized determinations and by flooding the offices with hundreds of early releases, those who deserve a fair and just trial may be screwed over while those who have complicated situations will just slip under the radar. Though the cases being reviewed for are non-violent crimes, local courts have been closed, arraignments delayed, and trials eventually postponed. There is not an accurate or valid way to try so many inmates at once if all of the legal departments are slowly shutting down.
The more outbreaks in prison, the more lives at risk for CoronaVirus. Those who contract the virus require medical treatment and attention thus resulting in an increase of needed staff and resources. This entire proposal seems to care more about the health and wellbeing of their incarcerated population than the families and communities already struggling with the pandemic at large. This will strip American lives of basic necessities and proper medical care if the state does not come up with a better plan.