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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has reduced its inmate population by 6% in the last three weeks to free up space in case the coronavirus enters its jails, officials said.

As of Thursday morning, there were no confirmed cases of the virus inside L.A. County jails, where the number of inmates was down to 16,017 inmates from 17,076 on Feb. 28.

“We anticipate the count is going to go further down,” said Cmdr. Jason Wolak of the Sheriff’s Department’s Custody Division. “The reason why we’re doing it is so we can have flexibility in the jail in case we’re going to lose a part of it.”

The county’s sprawling jail system is the largest in the nation, and many civil rights groups and others have pushed to reduce incarceration levels to prevent lockups from becoming breeding grounds for spread of the virus.

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