These are extraordinary times, and calls are going out nationwide to release low-level offenders from jails so that they are not unnecessarily exposed to the coronavirus.
Senator Kamala Harris has been one of those leading the charge calling for inmate releases at the federal level, and Fox News has been quick to leap on the story.
"In the midst of this crisis, [the Bureau of Prisons] should be taking reasonable steps to reduce the incarcerated population and guard against potential exposure to coronavirus," Harris said in a statement. "At this time, [the Bureau] —in coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice — can and should request the release of low-risk individuals who are in pretrial detention because of money bail."
Harris said that the BOP has been pushing back on these calls and is "responding to the threat of coronavirus with extreme measures that both maintain current levels of incarceration and penalize the incarcerated community," including potentially locking down prison facilities.
In the East Bay, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday that it had released 247 prisoners from Santa Rita Jail after they were approved for early release with modified sentences. And as Bay City News reports, an additional 67 inmates were released on their own recognizance while they await trial.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, both the district attorney and the public defender have come out calling for the release of inmates from the county jail. Earlier this week, as the Examiner reported, newly elected San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin joined in a push by 30 other prosecutors around the country to reduce prison populations before the facilities "become breeding grounds for the coronavirus."
And as KTVU reports, jails across the state are making similar moves, but San Francisco's early release will not likely be that large. Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Nancy Crowley tells the station that most of the 1,100 people SF currently has in custody were booked on or convicted of serious or violent crimes, and the relatively low number of them means that spreading them out to maintain distance will not be very difficult.