LA County jails release some inmates to prevent spread of virus

Los Angeles County jails have reduced the inmate population by more than 600 and authorities are cutting down on how many people are booked into custody in an effort to prevent the coronavirus from spreading within the facilities.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which staffs the county jails, has directed deputies to cite and release anyone with less than 30 days to serve and whose bail would be less than $50,000. In response, arrests have dropped from 300 per day to 60, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said during a Monday news conference.

“Our population within our jail is a vulnerable population just by virtue of who they are and where they’re located,” Villanueva said. “So we’re protecting that population from potential exposure.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal) said the move is a start "but nowhere near enough."

"Release 'any & all individuals whose release will not pose a serious physical safety risk to the community,' esp. those most vulnerable to #COVID19," the group tweeted.

No coronavirus cases have been confirmed within the jails, Villanueva said, but he added that 21 inmates are quarantined at the Men’s Central Jail, five are quarantined at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility and nine inmates are in isolation at the Correctional Treatment Center.

It was not clear if any have been tested for the virus, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"Over the weekend, we've had several of our personnel come into contact, and they have been self-isolated," Villanueva said. "However, fortunately, no one has actually tested positive for the virus."

Countywide, there were 94 coronavirus cases and one death as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the county Department of Public Health.

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California suspended prison visits throughout the state last week and Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered all bars and restaurants -- with the exception of takeout and delivery, as well as other venues to close through March 31.