California will release up to 8,000 prisoners this summer in an effort to create more space and prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in prisons.
News of the plan comes after more than a third of the inmates and staff at the San Quentin State Prison in the San Francisco Bay Area tested positive for the coronavirus.
Anyone who is eligible for release will be tested for the coronavirus within seven days of their return to society, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.
California’s state prison system currently reports 5,841 coronavirus cases among inmates — a rise of more than 860 cases in two weeks. Another 1,222 employees have also been infected.
“These actions are taken to provide for the health and safety of the incarcerated population and staff,” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Ralph Diaz said. “We aim to implement these decompression measures in a way that aligns both public health and public safety.”
More than half of the prisoners could be released this month. The corrections department says it’s reviewing the roster of prisoners who have fewer than 180 days left on their sentences; it anticipates roughly 4,800 people could be eligible for release by the end of July.