California Prisons Empty

Over 17,000 California prisoners - 70% more than earlier estimate - could be released early due to COVID-19

Photo: File photo of inmates at San Quentin

California state prison officials say as many as 17,600 inmates may be released early due to the coronavirus.

That's 70% more than previously estimated and a total that victims and police say includes dangerous criminals who should stay locked up.

Among those released last week was Terebea Williams, who served 19 years of an 84 years-to-life sentence for first-degree murder, carjacking and kidnapping.

She was deemed at high medical risk for the virus, though officials couldn't say what put her in that category

The earlier releases also are causing consternation as probation officers and community organizations scramble to provide housing, transportation and other services for inmates who may pose a public health risk because several hundred have been paroled while still contagious.

Officials have been under intense pressure to free more inmates, though officials say Corrections Secretary Ralph Diaz is likely to block some of the earlier releases.

With some inmates already released, the state's prison population dropped below 100,000 for the first time in three decades.


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