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Los Angeles County Starts Mass Release Of Low-Level Criminals

"We're protecting that population from potential exposure," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

Los Angeles County, CA – Over 600 inmates have been released from jail early in Los Angeles County in an effort to protect them from potential coronavirus exposure, according to the sheriff.

“Our population within the jail is a vulnerable population just by virtue of who they are and where they’re located,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters on Monday, according to NBC News. “So, we’re protecting that population from potential exposure.”

Inmates with less than 30-day sentences are automatically being released, and changes in arrest protocols have reduced the number of incoming inmates from 300 per day to just 60 per day.

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In order for suspects to be booked into jail, their cumulative bond amount must meet or exceed $50,000 instead of the $25,000 requirement that was previously in place, Sheriff Villanueva said.

Offenders whose cumulative bond amounts are less than $50,000 must be cited and released.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted that the release of 600 inmates “is a start but nowhere enough,” and urged the sheriff to set free anyone who “will not pose a serious physical safety risk to the community.”

“Restrictive responses, such as lock-downs, would worsen the conditions for those inside, putting their health and safety at risk,” the ACLU recently wrote in a letter to Sheriff Villanueva, according to the Los Angeles Times. “The only meaningful way to keep people inside and outside of the jails safe from COVID-19 is to decrease the total number of people who are incarcerated.”

Sheriff Villanueva said that there have been no confirmed coronavirus cases within Los Angeles County’s inmate population thus far, NBC News reported.

Jail and treatment center staff have also been checking incoming inmates for symptoms for the past two weeks, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A total of 35 inmates in three different Los Angeles County jail facilities were in quarantine as of Monday, Sheriff Villanueva said.

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“All of them are receiving the necessary level of care,” he noted.

Multiple sheriff’s office employees have also gone into quarantine, NBC News reported.

“Over the weekend, we’ve had several of our personnel come into contact, and they have been self-isolated,” the sheriff said. “However, fortunately, no one has actually tested positive for the virus.”

All employee vacation leave has been canceled through the end of April.

Holly Matkin - March Thu, 2020

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