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California to release another 8,000 inmates early due to coronavirus pandemic

California officials announced Friday that an additional 8,000 inmates would be released early from state prisons to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus among both inmates and staff.

“We’re glad the Governor is taking action to release more people. This is absolutely critical for the health and safety of every Californian. Too many people are incarcerated for too long in facilities that spread poor health. Supporting the health and safety of all Californians means releasing people unnecessarily incarcerated and transforming our justice system,” Californians for Safety and Justice Executive Director Jay Jordan said in a statement.

The state Department of Corrections had already reduced the inmate population by 10,000 to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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To be eligible for release, inmates must have a year or less time to serve in their sentences, and must not be serving for domestic violence or a violent crime. They also must have no current or prior sentences that require a sex offender registration, and must not be considered at high risk for violence. Those over 30 years of age who are eligible will immediately be considered, while those ages 29 and under will have their release considered on a case-by-case basis.

Inmates who are "high risk" such as those over 65 years old with chronic health conditions may also be considered for release.

Smart Justice California Director Anne Irwin praised the decision in a press release, saying it's "the right decision to help protect the lives of people living and working inside prisons and surrounding communities."

The decision comes as California joins states seeing record cases in COVID-19 after restrictions were lifted. 

California set a new record for the daily number of deaths from the virus on Thursday, with 149 new deaths and just more than 7,000 new cases of the virus. The state's total number of cases since the pandemic began is now more than 300,000.