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California Prisoners Released Early To Help Control Coronavirus


Officials in some Northern California counties are concerned about state prisons preparing to release a higher-than-normal number of inmates into their communities.
The idea behind the early releases is to create more space in the state prisons to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"In normal circumstances, when people come to us, we have time to plan and really support them," says Tracy Neal, with the Shasta County Probation Department. "But, with them coming out quickly like they are, we’re just having some challenges getting them connected to services so quickly."

Neal explains why these prisoners are being released in Northern California.

"The way that it works in California is that where an individual committed their crime, and where they were sentenced, is their county that they are returned to," she says.

Shasta county will be accepting 47 inmates; most within the next 2 weeks. Larger-than-normal numbers of inmates will be released into Humboldt and Butte counties, as well. Statewide, about 35-hundred inmates will be released between now and June 1.

State officials say they’re releasing parole-eligible inmates who have 60 days or less remaining on their sentences. Inmates incarcerated for violent crimes, sex crimes, or domestic violence offenses are not eligible.

Probation staff say they've been working to prepare for the releases while adopting practices to protect the health and safety of staff, the community, and the offenders.