Compassionate Release

In compassionate release cases, judges have to decide if an inmate’s situation presents “extraordinary and compelling reasons” to reduce their prison sentence.

In some cases reviewed, judges found that an inmate’s medical conditions met the standard given the pandemic.

Judges are making medical assessments about how much of a threat COVID-19 poses to an individual inmate and then deciding how to balance that against the public safety risk of sending that person back into the community; inmates are usually released to home confinement or under the supervision of a probation officer.

And judges are reaching different conclusions about how to measure an inmate’s risk of exposure in state and federal prisons, which have seen some of the worst clusters of COVID-19 cases nationwide.

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THE JAIL CYCLE: Spreading COVID-19

New research has found that nearly one in six cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and Illinois can be connected to people moving through the Cook County Jail, which at one point was dubbed the largest-known source of coronavirus cases in the U.S.

According to a new study published Thursday in the journal Health Affairs, cycling through Cook County Jail is associated with 15.7% of all documented cases of the virus in Illinois and 15.9% in Chicago through mid-April.

“As the pandemic began, I realized this was going to be a huge driver,” Eric Reinhart, a University of Chicago researcher who co-authored the report, told WTTW.

“The jail cycle – arresting people, cycling through the jail and back into their communities – was going to be a huge driver of COVID-19 spreading to communities.”

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COVID-19 ALERT: HOME RELEASE, NOW PLEASE

California is planning to release as many as 3,500 inmates from its state prisons in an effort to reduce crowding amid an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced on Tuesday that it would expedite the transition to parole for nonviolent offenders with 60 days or less left on their sentences, with priority going to individuals with less than 30 days left.

The CDCR also said that it would temporarily suspend intake from county jails, a move that could reduce the prison population by an additional 3,000 within a month.

“We do not take these new measures lightly. Our first commitment at CDCR is ensuring safety — of our staff, of the incarcerated population, of others inside our institutions, and of the community at large,” CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz said in a statement. “However, in the face of a global pandemic, we must consider the risk of COVID-19 infection as a grave threat to safety, too.”

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