LA County Inmates Released to Stop Coronavirus Spread

LA County Sheriffs

Thousands of inmates have been released from LA County jails, as part of an initiative to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the county’s jail system.

The county’s public defender, Ricardo García, said in a statement that “a collaboration among justice partners” has reduced the risk of coronavirus exposure in county jails.

“As we think of the extraordinary precautions we are all taking … we must remember that right now thousands of people that are trapped in close quarters with no ability to take these basic precautions in order to protect themselves.”

Many of the released inmates “were pretrial and presumed innocent,” according to García. 

During a briefing on April 13, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said approximately 25 percent of inmates in LA County jails have been released—which totals more than 4,200 individuals.

“In the wildest dreams of the ACLU, in all of the different groups who have been activists in that regard about the jail system, they never would’ve thought that would have been possible but we took the responsible approach,” he said.

The sheriff then explained that inmates were released in waves—starting with inmates with 30 days or less of their sentence in misdemeanor crimes, followed by those who were at-risk due to age or prior condition, and then those on pretrial detention and technical parole violations.

Of total LA County inmates, 676 inmates are currently in quarantine and 11 inmates have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Two of the 11 inmates have made a full recovery, according to Villanueva.

The move comes as stories continue to emerge that crowded conditions in jails and prisons have led to outbreaks in other cities. Those hotspots include one at Cook County Jail in Chicago, where more than 500 staff and detainees had tested positive as of April 13, and one at Rikers Island in New York City, where more than 700 inmates have tested positive and two have died from the viral disease.