Public Defender Calls for Release of Vulnerable Inmates Over Coronavirus Concerns

Motions will seek the release of all clients at heightened risk, including people who are over 60 years old, people with heart or lung diseases.

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San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju is calling for the immediate release of jail inmates who are most at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Raju on Tuesday announced he'll begin filing motions to seek the release of all clients at heightened risk, including people who are over 60 years old, people with heart or lung disease, diabetes and people suffering from cancer, HIV or autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or multiple sclerosis.

In addition, Raju said he sent a letter to San Francisco County Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, asking him to assess all sentenced inmates to see who is eligible for immediate release on electronic monitoring or work release programs and to begin processing their release.

"We are taking this action to protect older adults and those with compromised immune systems who are extremely vulnerable right now. People who are incarcerated in jail are already exposed to an unsafe environment. The cramped and unsanitary conditions in jail put the older or immunocompromised population at a much greater risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus," Raju said in a statement.

"Given the public health emergency posed by coronavirus, my office is seeking the immediate release of all incarcerated people sentenced to county jail in San Francisco who have less than 6 months left to serve," he said.

"These are cases where the court has already decided that it's safe to release someone into the community, and will be doing so in the very near future. This will help reduce the population on the inside, allowing for recommended distance between individuals during this public health crisis," he said.

In response, Miyamoto said the sheriff's office already routinely evaluates inmates for work release programs and electronic monitoring.

Additionally, in order to prevent COVID-19 from being transmitted in city jails, the sheriff's office has begun screening all new inmates for infectious diseases as part of the booking process, as well as an extensive medical interview within 24 hours of a person being placed in detention.

Also, Miyamoto said in a letter to Raju, "We continuously identify and monitor our most vulnerable populations who may be older or immunocompromised to ensure their safety.

"To date, we have not had a single case of coronavirus in our jails. Rest assured, those who are under our care receive medical treatment that is among the best in the country," he said.

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