Aides to Gov. Gavin Newsom said his administration will release approximately 8,000 state prison inmates by August, in a bid to ease widespread coronavirus outbreaks at several state facilities and reduce pressure from lawmakers and prisoner advocates.
News of the releases began to filter out just before noon Friday. Aides said the releases will be made in phases and will include both people scheduled to be freed soon as well as those at high risk for serious complications should they contract the virus.
Officials at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said inmates convicted of violent felonies and sex crimes would be ineligible for release. Only those with a year or less left to serve would be considered.
The decision comes after the Governor faced mounting pressure to address the rapid spread of the virus among state prison inmates and staff, with 2,286 inmates and 719 staff members confirmed to have the virus. As of Friday morning, 31 inmates have died of COVID-19 in state prisons.
About 4,800 people should be eligible for release by the end of the month, according to prison officials. Inmates with a year or less to serve in one of eight prisons with high rates of infection – such as San Quentin and the California Institution for Men – will also be eligible to have their cases reviewed.
Any prisoners serving time for domestic violence or other violent crimes, who need to register as a sex offender or are judged to be a high risk for committing violent crimes would also be ineligible, officials said.