This review from Kaiser Health News discusses various approaches cities and states are taking to reduce the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks in incarcerated populations.
As jails and prisons house populations in settings that do not lend themselves to reducing exposure risks in ways that align with CDC recommendations, many prison and jail systems are releasing prisoners and/or restructuring living arrangements to prevent outbreaks.
San Francisco’s jail system has not had a COVID-19 case. The process they have adopted to reduce prison density by nearly 40% is described as follows:
[Public Defender Mano] Raju’s office has led a painstaking, case-by-case effort to gain emergency releases for prisoners who fall within the CDC’s defined at-risk category: age 60 and older or suffering from an underlying medical condition. Raju also asked San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto to release all those in the county jail system with six months or less remaining on their sentences; Miyamoto responded, in part, that he was working on releasing those with 60 or fewer days remaining.
Some inmates are being sprung with time served; some go into diversion programs or wear ankle monitors as they finish their terms under home confinement.
“I would like the sheriff to release everyone that it is within his power to release — those who are safe to return to the community on probation,” Raju told KHN. “Case by case is a very inefficient way to do it. We need the court time for other things.”
San Francisco’s district attorney, Chesa Boudin, has instructed his prosecutors to consider giving credit for time served in the plea deals they negotiate. Boudin also told prosecutors not to oppose motions for those in pretrial detention to be released if they present no public risk.