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Coronavirus: Newsom halts state prison intake for next 30 days, changes parole process – The Mercury News

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Newsom said the executive order was issued to protect the health and safety of state inmates, youth, and staff following the recent confirmed COVID-19 cases in four separate state prisons.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced he signed an executive order Tuesday that will immediately halt the intake and transfer of inmates and youth into California’s 35 state prisons and four youth correctional facilities.
During a press briefing Tuesday evening, Newsom said the executive order was issued to protect the health and safety of state inmates, youth, and staff following the recent confirmed COVID-19 cases in four separate state prisons affecting five correctional officers and one inmate.
We are going to restrict the intake process in the system,” Newsom said. “We are putting together new protocol and procedures throughout that system, 35 prisons, to make sure that we are isolating people and we are not mixing our prison populations as we tend to do with transfers.
In lieu of transferring inmates to state prisons, they will remain in county custody for the next 30 days. The executive order says the period can be extended “if needed.”
Newsom also announced changes to the parole process for state prisoners, as the order directs the Board of Parole Hearings to move from in-person reviews to reviews done by videoconferencing.
In each and every circumstance when people are made eligible they go through a very formal process of interviews and reviews. Thats done in person,” Newsom said. “Because of the nature of this virus, the nature of this moment, were going to be changing the procedures and protocols.”
Parole suitability hearings will take place over videoconferencing starting no later than April 13 and last for at least 60 days. The order says those typically in attendance for hearings such as staff, parole board members, victims, families and their representatives and others will be permitted to participate remotely.
“This will be a temporary strategy,” Newsom said.
In a statement, Chief Probation Officers of California President Brian Richart acknowledged there are only difficult choices as Newsom and other leaders work to address the pandemic.
The governor has stated and we agree that we do not want to create another crisis with the response to this crisis, Richart said. Probation has been closely working with the state, our local leaders and public safety partners to identify safe, practical means to relieve system pressures without unduly risking public safety and the stability of those in our system.
The governor has the authority to issue the order under the Emergency Services Act and to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation under Cal Penal Code section 2900(b).

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