Federal judges weigh mass release of California prisoners during coronavirus pandemic

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The California Institution for Men prison fence is seen on August 19, 2009, in Chino, California. (Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images)

The California Institution for Men prison fence is seen on August 19, 2009, in Chino, California. (Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images)

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As parole dates are sped up and inmates tear shirts and socks to make masks, federal judges are weighing whether California must take larger, more drastic steps to avert the spread of COVID-19 in its teeming prisons.

“There is injury and despair” among inmates living in crowded dorms under threat of the coronavirus, attorney Sarah Norman with the Prison Law Office said during an emergency hearing Thursday before three federal judges.

The remedies that inmate lawyers propose range from mass releases to the state’s use of empty buildings and acquisition of property to temporarily house inmates — akin to COVID-19 measures to house cruise ship passengers and the homeless.

Lawyers for Gov. Gavin Newsom contend that federal intervention is unwarranted and mass prison releases might endanger the public by overloading already struggling community hospitals.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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