A court ruling in Orange County, Calif., is calling for more than 1,800 inmates to be released in an effort to cut prison population by 50% in response to the coronavirus. OC Sheriff Don Barnes told KABC-TV in Los Angeles that he does not plan on releasing anyone.
Barnes said, “I have no intention of releasing any of these individuals from my custody. We are going to file an appeal and we’re going to fight it and if the judge has any intent of releasing any one of these individuals, he will have to go through line by line, name by name, and tell me which ones he is ordering released.”
The decision by the court follows an April lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in an effort to protect medically vulnerable and disabled people in the Orange County Jail.
Barnes announced an outbreak in the jails over the weekend as 416 cases of coronavirus were reported by Monday jumping from 138 cases on Friday. The sheriff argued the spike in cases was due to increased testing to include those who were asymptomatic.
Jacob Reisberg of the ACLU in Southern California has called the jails “f***ing deathtraps” on Twitter. However, as of last week, 691 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began and only two inmates from the jail had been hospitalized and zero had died.
Barnes released a statement on Twitter, saying “If the order stands, it will result in the release of more than 1,800 inmates. Many of these inmates are in pre-trial status for, or have been convicted of, violent crimes and will be released back into the community. This order puts our community at substantial risk and does not take into account the impact on victims of these crimes.”
This wouldn’t be the first release from Orange County jails; more than 1,300 inmates have already been released since the pandemic began. Data from the district attorney’s office showed that those offenders who were released early have committed crimes at nearly three times the normal rate.