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California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation estimates up to 8,000 people could be eligible for release

Posted at 11:21 AM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 13:22:38-04

The Kern County District Attorney has expressed concerns over the early release of thousands of inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 23ABC's Bayan Wang spoke with District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer on what this means for Kern County.

"I took a look at some of those that are going to be released back to Kern County and what I saw was pretty consistent," said Zimmer. "They had long violent records. Ex felon with a gun, with strike priors, ex gang member with a gun with strike priors, car thieves who have many car thefts, with strike priors."

Zimmer said a minimum of 200 inmates serving time in California prisons will be released early to Kern County where the majority of them used to reside. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation about 8,000 inmates statewide will be eligible for early release by the end of August in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Inmates who are currently serving for a non-violent crime are eligible and those with 6 months left on their sentence will be considered first.

Sam Lewis, the executive director for the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) said it's a move that will provide more safety to inmates and prison staff.

"That's important for the people who are currently in custody, as well as the staff that are working inside these facilities because there is no way to socially distance inside these facilities."

But Zimmer said the early release will create a public safety concern for communities across the state.

"The majority of these inmates have strike priors," said Zimmer. "What is a strike prior? An attempted murder, a robbery, a residential burglary. These types of very violent crims. These are the type of inmates that are going to be released back into society."

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said he expects the majority of these inmates to re-offend.

"The likelihood of them reoffending is really in the 90 percent range at least because they have reoffended their entire life. That's how they got to prison in the first place."

Bakersfield police are also aware of the situation, stating: "We will closely monitor and take enforcement action if needed."

The time frame for when these inmates will come to Kern County has not been confirmed, nor has it been said which prisons they will be released from. However, the district attorney says she expects them to arrive within the next several weeks and months.