LA Sheriff Releases Inmates Over Coronavirus Fears

In Iran, authorities temporarily freed 85K inmates
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2020 8:43 AM CDT
Iran's Latest Virus Strategy: A Mass Prison Release
In this Feb. 18 photo, prisoners stand outside of the federal correctional institution in Englewood, Colo. Inmates at all 122 federal correctional facilities across the country are not allowed visits from family, friends, or attorneys for the time being.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

Everyone's familiar with the COVID-19 drill by now: Use social distancing, avoid large groups in close quarters, etc. But one big population of people around the world can't manage that as well as most: inmates. Which explains why Iran, particularly hard hit by COVID-19, has just temporarily released 85,000 prisoners deemed to be low criminal risk to society, reports Reuters. Details on when or how the inmates would be returned to prison were not clear. The idea isn't just a foreign one. NBC News reports that the Los Angeles County sheriff has freed 600 inmates early for the same reason.

"Our population within the jail is a vulnerable population just by virtue of who they are and where they're located," said Sheriff Alex Villanueva. "So, we're protecting that population from potential exposure." Villanueva also urged officers to make fewer arrests and instead use more citations as penalties. Most of those released had fewer than 30 days on their sentences. A piece at Vox takes a closer look at the danger, pointing out that a prison outbreak is not only dangerous for inmates but for the prison's surrounding community as staffers return home from work. The takeaway: "If you want to 'flatten the curve' to spread out the illness and avoid overwhelming health care systems, experts say, you should worry about coronavirus in prisons and jails," writes German Lopez. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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