LA releases inmates from jail early over coronavirus concerns while Legal Aid Society asks for a freeze on arrests in New York to combat the pandemic
- L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his agency reduced the number of inmates in its jails by more than 600 amid concerns over the coronavirus
- There’s no confirmed cases of the virus in jails but 35 inmates are quarantined
- Sheriff’s Department had reduced the jail population through the early release of inmates who had less than 30 days of jail time left to serve
- In New York, Legal Aid Society has asked for NYPD to place an immediate moratorium on arrests
- Inmates have complained they do not have access to soap, hand sanitizer or a way to disinfect their living quarters
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
The Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has moved to cut the number of prisoners in its jails by more than 600 over concerns about the coronavirus.
Despite there being are no confirmed cases of the virus in the jails, 21 inmates have been quarantined at Men’s Central Jail, five are in quarantine at Twin Towers Correctional Facility and a further nine at the Correctional Treatment Center.
‘All of them are receiving the necessary level of care,’ Villanueva said at a news conference Monday.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his agency reduced the number of inmates in its jails by more than 600 amid concerns over the coronavirus
‘I’ve used my authority that I have to reduce that population,’ he continued.
Villanueva ended up releasing inmates who had less than 30 days of jail time left to run on their sentence.
Meanwhile, arrests across the county have dropped from an average of 300 a day to just 60.
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California urged the Sheriff’s Department to speed up the release of the inmates.
‘People in jails are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. They are housed in close quarters and are often in poor health,’ the union said.
There’s no confirmed cases of the virus in the LA jails but 35 inmates are quarantined (file)
‘Restrictive responses, such as lockdowns, would worsen the conditions for those inside, putting their health and safety at risk,’ the ACLU wrote. ‘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.’
Over the last two weeks, deputies begun screening new inmates at its intake centers.
Before coming into the building, inmates are asked if they left the country recently or have been in contact with anyone who has. They are also asked whether they have a fever or any other coronavirus symptoms.
Depending on the answers, the inmate would either be processed in the jail or sent to a medical center.
Across the country in New York, the Legal Aid Society has demanded an immediate moratorium on arrests, as well as release of people detained pretrial.
The Legal Aid Society also said it had received reports from clients within the jails that they lacked basic sanitation measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The LA sheriff’s department had reduced the jail population through the early release of inmates who had less than 30 days of jail time left to serve
Some said they did not have access to soap or hand sanitizer in their housing units.
The groups’ attorney-in-charge of its criminal-defense practice, said putting the cost of cleaning products on inmates ‘is both callous and reckless.’
Legal Aid Society’s Tina Luongo said: ‘City Hall must place an immediate moratorium on arrests, and for the hundreds of clients we have languishing in DOC custody pretrial or because of a parole violation, we call for their immediate release.’
‘These facilities are literal breeding grounds for infectious disease such as COVID-19. The continued incarceration of our clients during this health crisis could very well carry a death sentence.’
‘Public-health authorities are unanimous: We must clean communal areas with disinfectants, and thoroughly and frequently wash our hands with soap and water to slow transmission of this virus,’ Luongo said.
Asked about the jails at his Sunday press briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said: ‘The folks in our jails are in our jails right now with a lot of specific precautions. There’s definitely distancing initiatives going on. Very careful checks on health care. We’ll have more to say on that. That’s one of the areas that’s going to come up next on the agenda, but I’m very concerned about it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need a functioning jail system.’