FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, exits the courtroom after his arraignment in New York Supreme Court in New York, U.S., June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was released from federal prison on Wednesday due to health concerns stemming from his vulnerability to coronavirus. His release underscores the high risk of infection throughout the nation’s prison system. 

According to the Marshall Project, coronavirus cases in prisons are on the rise in the few states that have been aggressively testing at prisons. Those numbers suggest that the virus has been circulating in prisons in much greater numbers than previously known, alarming advocates who say prisoners have a right to protection from the virus. In one Los Angeles facility, upwards of 70 percent of inmates tested positive in an outbreak.

Some argue that releasing prisoners early endangers local communities. A prosecutor in Orange County issued a warning to his community about the dangers of seven “high risk” sex offenders who were released to prevent outbreaks. In April, at least 50 out of 1,500 inmates released from New York City jails were found to have returned after committing new crimes.

Hundreds of inmates with underlying health conditions began to request early or compassionate release from prison beginning in April. However, one month after Attorney General William Barr directed the Bureau of Prisons to prioritize early release, a report from the Washington Post shows that many judges are taking action into their own hands because the bureau was too slow to address the requests. 

The report comes as rapper and activist Common on Wednesday announced a #WeMatterToo campaign that calls on authorities to immediately release prisoners who are near the end of their sentences or who have high-risk health issues.

MEDIA CONTRIBUTION

Inmates at one California jail tried to infect themselves with coronavirus, Los Angeles Sheriff says – CNN – 5/13/2020 Inmates at a Los Angeles County correctional facility drank from the same cup with the purpose of infecting one another, resulting in 21 cases of coronavirus, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

Child Sex Abuser Being Held At California Prison Gets Early Release Due To Coronavirus – CBS Sacramento – 5/13/2020 A judge Tuesday said he’d grant early release to a federal inmate who is eight months away from completing his 10-year sentence for sexually abusing five girls because of the man’s unusual vulnerability to contracting the coronavirus.

Early release of inmates saves money for Mecosta County Jail – Big Rapids Pioneer – 5/11/2020 Purcell explained that county officials began releasing “low-risk offenders” in March in an effort to reduce the overall jail population. […] Purcell said this has created a great deal of savings for the jail. It costs about $60 a day to house an inmate at the Mecosta County Jail, while both a GPS and alcohol monitoring tether only cost about $15 a day.

Cook County Jail out of electronic monitoring devices in push to reduce inmate population amid COVID-19 crisis – ABC7 Chicago – 5/8/2020 The efforts to reduce jail population during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a skyrocketing demand in equipment. Jail officials say they are working to address the supply issues but asked for assistance from other county officials.

Coronavirus will spread in and outside of SC prisons without more work, lawsuits claim – The Greenville News – 5/13/2020 Lawsuits against the state Department of Corrections are mounting as at least 62 staff members and 50 prisoners have been infected with COVID-19 and three deaths have been attributed to the virus. Inmates claim there isn’t enough protection and testing to stop the spread while prison system officials affirm that extra steps are being taken to keep institutions safe including cleaning more frequently, stopping in-person visitations and checking temperatures of essential personnel as they come to work.

INFLUENCER CONTRIBUTION

Claude Taylor on Twitter, 5/13/2020:  Non snark question. Let’s say a year goes by or two and medium security prisons are deemed safe-does Manafort go back?

COMMON on Twitter, 5/13/2020: Join me, @ImaginexJustice and 70+ organizations today as we launch #WeMatterToo to help our people who are incarcerated in our nation’s jails, prisons and detention centers. Take action today at https://t.co/5a8QMB9KBb.… https://t.co/cmVyDz61kP

Jonathan Allen on Twitter, 5/13/2020: This is what I said on @NBCNewsNow about dismissing COVID spikes in facilities: When prisoners get the disease, also guards get the disease, prison populations are transient, and prisoners are people. Of course, meat-processing plants come with their own whole host of issues.… https://t.co/WLgPI0hnWs

Toronto Sun on Twitter, 5/13/2020: Charles Manson groupie Leslie Van Houten wants out of prison https://t.co/Cnwq6dyy9N…

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