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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a pair of lawsuits late Friday calling for a dramatic reduction in California’s incarcerated population and a halt to all transfers of inmates to federal immigration detention centers amid increasing signs throughout the U.S. that jails and prisons are hot zones for the spread of the coronavirus.

The suits filed with the California Supreme Court name Gov. Gavin Newsom and Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra and come as the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego and Lompoc penitentiary in Santa Barbara County have become home to some of the worst outbreaks in the federal prison system. In the lawsuits, the ACLU argued that outbreaks behind bars pose threats not only to the incarcerated, but also the families of jail and prison employees.

“It is not just those confined to jails, detention centers, and youth facilities who are in danger,” Peter J. Eliasberg, chief counsel of the ACLU in Southern California, said in a statement. “Once the virus gets inside, the regular movement of staff and visitors in and out means that walls and razor wire can neither slow nor stop the viral spread to communities at large.”

The suits argue that social distancing is almost impossible in immigration detention centers and California jails and prisons, where many house inmates in close proximity, with showers and meal areas that are communal.

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