By Raymond Nava
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, California has plans to release around 3,500 inmates from prison early as the virus spreads throughout the prison system.
The move is an effort in order to reduce crowding.
The move will affect prisoners who are serving sentences for non-violent crimes and who were already due to be released in 60 days.
Non violent offenders should be released while violent ones shouldn’t, even though it may produce moral questions.
The LA Times reports documents provided to them show that cell blocks where inmates were shown having flu-like symptoms, which are similar to symptoms of the COVID-19, were put on lockdown.
This worried family members of older age prisoners, who are more at risk to the symptoms of COVID-19.
Crimes that make inmates ineligible for early release, as listed in an article by The Sacramento Bee, are inmates convicted of domestic violence, a crime that requires them to register as a sex offender or any other violent crime.
While it’s understandable that violent offenders should not be released early, it can be viewed as defeating the main purpose of releasing any inmates early.
It definitely raises the moral question of whether it’s right to only release a select group of inmates and not others if the main goal is the health and safety of prisoners and reducing the spread of the virus.
While non-violent criminals should remain behind bars even during the pandemic, there are some legitimate concerns about it.
Prisons would still be packed with inmates who were convicted of violent crimes as well as prison staff such as guards and cooks, all who would still be put at risk.
The Officer Down Memorial Page, a website that tracks deaths of law enforcement officers, confirmed one of the first line-of-duty deaths of a police officer as a direct result of COVID-19.
Sheriff’s deputy Terrell Young of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department died after he contracted the virus from an inmate at the Byrd Detention Center.
There is also the issue of wrongfully convicted individuals.
An argument that is used against the death penalty is executing a wrongfully convicted prisoners
Some of these wrongfully convicted prisoners might be in prison for violent crimes and are put at risk of the virus because they were ineligible for release due to their conviction.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of people into what were once unimaginable scenarios and positions.
While violent prisoner deaths are heartbreaking, the risk to the public if these violent offenders are let out early is just too big.
Non violent inmates should continue to be released as planned, which will help with crowding in the prisons.
Guards and prison staff should work to take greater precautions than what are already put into place to protect themselves and remaining inmates.