澳门新葡亰2019手机app下载:US prisons release inmates to stop virus spread
US President Donald Trump. [Photo/Agencies]
US prisons and jails nationwide are releasing nonviolent inmates to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus following a slew of confirmed cases in the penal system.
The nation's nearly 7,000 jails, prisons and correctional facilities are an ideal breeding ground for the virus, say corrections officials and prison reform advocates.
Prisons in California, Illinois and Ohio have released hundreds of inmates early. Officials in other states, including Utah and New York, are set to follow suit.
The nation has at least 2.3 million inmates in federal and state prisons and local jails. There are at least 175,000 inmates serving sentences in federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities.
At a news conference on Sunday, President Donald Trump said that he was considering an executive order that would free elderly, nonviolent prisoners due to concerns over the spread of coronav澳门新葡亰2019手机app下载irus, but he did not commit to doing so.
In New York City, where there have been 15,168 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 114 deaths as of Sunday evening Mayor Bill de Blasio said those being released will include people who were arrested for minor crimes and those most vulnerable to infection due to underlying health problems.
At least 31 people — 19 inmates and 12 Department of Correction employees — have tested positive for the coronavirus in New York City jails, including at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex, as of Saturday, according to the board that oversees the city's jail system.
Corrections officers and administrative personnel have also tested positive for the virus in Georgia, New Hampshire and Texas.
Inmates at other New York state jails and prisons, including Sing Sing, are infected, said officials, who didn't provide numbers of cases. Sing Sing is a maximum-security prison in Ossining north of New York City and has about 1,300 inmates.
The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision banned all visitations at New York correctional facilities until April 11. The department said that in place of visitations, it was offering inmates a free phone call each week, five free postage stamps and two free secure messages to help keep communication open.
More than 200 inmates were released from the Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, Ohio. Most are low-level, nonviolent inmates.
"We are trying to make as much room as possible, so when this virus hits our jail, the jail can deal with these people, quarantine them and deal with it instead of letting them sit there and infect the whole ent澳门新葡亰2019手机app下载ire jail," said Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan.
Los Angeles County's jail system — the largest in the world with an average daily population of 22,000 — reduced its inmate count by 600 over the past two weeks to stop the spread of COVID-19. Early rele澳门新葡亰2019手机app下载ase is being granted to inmates with less than 30 days left on their sentences.
"Our population within the jail is a vulnerable population just by virtue of who they are and where they're located," said LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva at a news conference. "So, we're protecting that population from potential exposure."
Villanueva said deputies across the county have been directed to cite and release anyone whose total bail would be less than $50,000. Because of this, arrests in LA County h澳门新葡亰2019手机app下载ave dropped from a daily average of 300 to 60 in mid-March.
In Utah, officials said as many as 200 inmates could be released from the Salt Lake County jail in the coming days.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said authorities planed to release at least 90 inmates, most of them women, Friday evening in respons澳门新葡亰2019手机app下载e to the pandemic. Those being let out from behind bars are nonviolent offenders, and most are in jail for technical violations or for not showing up to court.
Gill said that another batch of prisoners would be released next week to free up anywhere from 150 to 200 beds to house those accused of violent crimes. Releasing inmates, he said, will also allow for more space if coronavirus does spread in the jail and it becomes necessary to quarantine certain inmates.
On Friday, the Legal Aid Society sued the New York state Department of Corrections to get 116 inmates released immediately. The prisoners suffer from a range of conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and asthma or are age 50 or older, making them more vulnerable to the virus.
Elias Husamudeen, president of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, criticized the city's push to release inmates.
"Their latest asinine proposal to start letting inmates out of jail who are 'high risk' to this virus, regardless of their risk to public safety, is beyond irresponsible," he said in a statement.
He said that instead of releasing inmates, the city should ramp up its efforts to bring in more masks, gloves, hand sanitizers and other vital supplies for the men and women who must also put their health at risk by showing up to work every day, providing care, custody and control. "Correction officers' lives matter too," he said.
Sue Allison, a spokesperson for the federal Bureau of Prisons, said in a statement: "All cleaning, sanitation, and medical supplies have been inventoried at every one of (the BOP's) 122 facilities, and an ample amount of supply is on hand and ready to be distributed or moved to any facility as deemed necessary."
Other measures being rolled out include a temporary ban on all visitors. Prisons in Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio and South Dakota said they would expand video-calling for inmates over the next 30 days. Visitors, including inmates' lawyers, were also barred from entering all 122 BOP facilities for a month.