Britain releases 4,000 inmates to curb spread of coronavirus 

Britain will release about 4,000 nonviolent inmates from their prisons to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, the country’s Ministry of Justice announced Saturday.

The ministry described prisoners eligible for release as “low-risk offenders,” noting those convicted of violent or sexual offenses will not be considered.

Inmates will be tracked electronically and required to stay home, officials said.

“Additionally, no offender convicted of COVID-19 related offences, including coughing at emergency workers or stealing personal protective equipment, will be eligible,” they added.

The ministry had previously announced that pregnant prisoners convicted of nonviolent offenses would be released.

Britain has a large prison population compared to other European countries, with more than 80,000 people in custody. Prisons have continued running even though more than a fourth of staff has been absent or self-isolating.

The ministry reported that 88 inmates and 15 prison staff have tested positive for COVID-19 and that at least three prisoners have died from the virus. 

The U.K. is the latest country to take steps to release certain nonviolent prisoners in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Last week, France released 5,000 of its prisoners.

In the U.S., officials have also warned that overcrowding in prisons could lead to the disease quickly spreading among inmates.

On Tuesday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced that it would release 3,500 nonviolent inmates from its state prisons.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) also said earlier this week that his city released 900 inmates to avoid the risk of the virus spreading in jails.

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