Great news for California! There are now plans to release 8,000 California prisoners ahead of schedule in an unprecedented attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19 inside state prisons.

The announcement on Friday by top advisors to Gov. Gavin Newsom offered stark evidence of the dire health conditions at several California prisons. The total number of prisoners at facilities for men and women has already been reduced by thousands since Newsom declared a statewide emergency in response to the coronavirus.

More than 2,300 prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus, state officials said. Significant increases have been reported at the California Institution for Men in Chino and at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County. At least 31 prisoners have died from COVID-19 related illnesses.

The decision to expedite the release of prisoners comes on the heels of a growing chorus of complaints by state lawmakers, prisoner advocates and a federal judge that the state hasn’t done enough to stem the rising tide of infection.

Just how this is suppose to help California, I am not sure. The prison population tends to be on the younger side, and the virus hits the elderly the hardest. Coupled with better nutrition, regular exercise regimens, and the availability of medical resources, many of the incarcerated are less likely to suffer adverse effects even if they do contract COVID-19.

Perhaps this would be less of an issue if it weren’t for the fact that cities within the state weren’t also racing to embrace “Defund the Police.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to cut hiring at the Police Department, pushing the number of sworn officers well below 10,000 and abandoning a budget priority once seen as untouchable by city leaders.

Faced with a grim budget outlook and deluged by demands for reductions in police spending, the council voted 12 to 2 to take the Los Angeles Police Department down to 9,757 officers by next summer — a level of staffing not seen in the city since 2008.

Overall, the council’s decision delivered a $150-million hit to the LAPD budget, much of it coming from funds earmarked for police overtime pay. Councilman Curren Price, who pushed for the cuts, said two-thirds of the savings would ultimately be funneled into services for Black, Latino and disenfranchised communities, such as hiring programs and summer youth jobs.

“This is a step forward, supporting minority communities in ways in which they deserve — with respect, dignity and an even playing field,” said Price, the only Black member on the council’s budget committee.

I am not so sure those minority communities actually deserve the influx of prisoners over the next few weeks. However, maybe the “community-based responders” will work out for them.

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a measure to develop an unarmed model of crisis response that would replace police officers with community-based responders for nonviolent calls.

“This is the dawn of a new era of public safety in Los Angeles,” City Councilmember Herb Wesson Jr. tweeted Tuesday.

Nonviolent calls for service that police officers typically respond to include mental health crises, substance abuse and neighbor disputes.

Twelve years ago, another California city did “defund the police,” with devastating consequences.

Twelve years ago, officials in Vallejo, Calif., reluctantly took a step that activists are now urging in cities across the country: They defunded their police department.

Unable to pay its bills after the 2008 financial crisis, Vallejo filed for bankruptcy and cut its police force nearly in half — to fewer than 80 officers, from a pre-recession high of more than 150. At the time, the working-class city of 122,000 north of San Francisco struggled with high rates of violent crime and simmering mistrust of its police department. It didn’t seem like things could get much worse.

And then they did. Far from ushering in a new era of harmony between police and the people they are sworn to protect, the budget cuts worsened tensions between the department and the community and were followed by a dramatic surge in officers’ use of deadly force. Since 2009 the police have killed 20 people, an extraordinarily high number for such a small city. In 2012 alone, officers fatally shot six suspects. Nearly a third of the city’s homicides that year were committed by law enforcement.

The Golden State is about to have a spike in crime to match its spike in COVID!

California’s coronavirus situation may have just turned deadlier, but for reasons not having anything to do with the pathogen.

 

 
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