National News

Around 200 Calif. inmates released early due to COVID-19 surge

Posted January 14, 2022 10:36 a.m. EST
Updated January 14, 2022 10:37 a.m. EST

— Cassandra Bluford's fiancé is one of many inmates in Sacramento County's jail who may be at risk amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

"His health isn't all that good," she said. "He is older with the high-risk of people getting COVID, I don't want him to die."

There are currently 76 COVID-19 cases at the jail, officials confirmed. That number tripled in just the past week.

At the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, south of Elk Grove, there are 48 cases. Last week there were zero.

Bluford's biggest worry is the lack of social distancing.

"Everybody being so close in there, you're supposed to stay six feet apart. It's very concerning. I believe he should be home," she said.

To stop the spread, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office announced the early release of some county-sentenced inmates through an emergency order.

"This is a very hard thing for the sheriff's office to do," said Sgt. Rod Grassmann. "This is about having to create quarantine areas for people that are positive."

A total of 203 inmates will be released up to 90 days early, including 74 from the main jail and 129 from the RCCC.

Major factors behind the decision are that state prisons are not taking transfers right now, and the courts are backlogged.

"We've got 400 people more than we would normally have," Grassmann said. "If those 400 people were in the care of the facilities where they should be, we would not have to do any releases."

The sheriff's office says inmates that will not be released early include those with domestic violence charges, DUI offenses, violent felony charges and those who are sex offenders.

Some people in the community are still worried.

"We understand that the public is rightfully concerned," said Grassmann. "There's just no other option at this point."

The county said limited oral therapeutics are being used in the jails to manage the outbreak.

"I would expect it to make a difference, because in tight quarters like that, and as readily as our current variant spreads, the omicron variant, they need something like that," said Dr. Mark Vaughan, Medical Director for Auburn Medical Group.

Many families say letting their loved ones out is the best solution.

"I haven't gotten a call saying he's going to get out, but hopefully I do," Bluford said.

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