the coronavirus crisis
In an effort to ensure the novel coronavirus does not sweep through its jails, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is releasing certain inmates and citing and releasing people rather than arresting them.
"Our population within our jail is a vulnerable population just by virtue of who they are and where they're located," Sheriff Alex Villanueva said during a press conference Monday. "So we're protecting that population from potential exposure." So far, there are no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the jail system.
Villanueva said deputies across the county have been directed to cite and release anyone whose total bail would be less than $50,000; because of this, arrests have dropped from a daily average of 300 to 60. Inmates with less than 30 days left to serve have also been released, dropping the county's jail population by more than 600, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Civil rights advocates and health officials say that even in the best of circumstances, jails aren't able to provide adequate medical care for all inmates, and a coronavirus outbreak could lead to bedlam. "Nobody should be detained for not paying a parking fee or because they are poor and can't make bail," Chris Beyrer, a Johns Hopkins University epidemiology professor, told the Times. "We need to be releasing these people yesterday."