California Court of Appeals orders 50% population reduction at San Quentin Prison

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020
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UC Hastings Law Professor Hadar Aviram discussed the latest Court of Appeals ruling requiring San Quentin to reduce its inmate population by 50% after a lawsuit by a prisoner who was one of the more than 2,000 inmates to contract COVID-19.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A California Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that San Quentin prison must reduce its population by 50% or to no more than 1,775 inmates.

The ruling comes from a lawsuit by a prisoner who was one of the more than 2,000 inmates to contract COVID-19.

RELATED: San Quentin coronavirus: Inmate shares how massive COVID-19 outbreak started

UC Hastings Law Professor Hadar Aviram joined Anchor Kristen Sze on ABC7 News at 3 p.m. to discuss what the ruling means.

Aviram said it means more than 1,000 inmates need to be released or transferred to another facility so they can provide measures to protect against COVID-19.

The appeals court judge says the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must revise its expedited release programs to include inmates over age 60 who have served at least 25 years of their sentence and are eligible for parole.

"So they're (The Court of Appeals) saying we're leaving it open to the prison's discretion on how to achieve this, but one thing that they need to pay attention to is the fact that they have so far refrained from releasing people who are old and serving long sentences for violent crime," Aviram said. "All of the strategies in the state have excluded this population from release when they're actually the obvious people to let out because they've aged out of crime, they're already old, and they face the highest risk of COVID, because they're old and suffer from various health, health problems. Because of that, this is the ideal population to target and the court is recommending to the prisons to consider adding everybody who's over 60, and has served more than 25 years to the list of people that be released.

WATCH: 'I fear for my life': San Quentin State Prison inmate describes dire conditions inside prison as COVID-19 cases skyrocket

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports that 28 San Quentin inmates have died due to COVID-19 and Aviram says 75% of inmates tested positive for the virus.

"It's essential to 'de-carcerate' the prison and make some room," Aviram added

Kristen asked, "Any word yet on the correction system appealing to this ruling?"

"We don't know," Aviram said. "That's assumably the next step, they only have 15 days to do it because of the rush to save lives. The court limited it to 15 days and after that, the case becomes final.

Statewide, there have been a total of 15,306 COVID-19 cases among California stat prisons, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports .

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reached out to ABC7 News to provide the following statement:

"CDCR has received the ruling and will determine next steps. However, we respectfully disagree with the court's determination, as CDCR has taken extensive actions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March, the department has released more than 21,000 persons, resulting in the lowest prison population in decades. Additionally, we have implemented response and mitigation efforts across the system. As of today, CDCR's COVID-19 cases are the lowest they have been since May (474 cases reported today, and over 14,000 resolved), with San Quentin recording only one new case among the incarcerated population in nearly a month. For more information, please go to our COVID-19 response web page:

Watch the full interview in the media player above.

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