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Coronavirus

New COVID-19 Zero Bail order will release people from jails across California

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SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- A new order taking effect today will release some people from prisons and jails across California to prevent the spread of coronavirus among inmates.

Local law enforcement and District Attorneys are speaking out against the move.

As a zero bail order releases some inmates from all California prisons and jails, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow believes the order is not only unconstitutional but could also put our communities in danger.

“By randomly assigning zero bails to thousands of cases throughout California without going through an analysis of the safety of the victims and public, we are violating the victim's rights,” said SLO District Attorney Dan Dow.

The order was set in hopes to limit the spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons.

Its intent is to release those arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors and lower-level felonies with a promise to come back for trial.

“That would include anyone who has been arrested in the past who is pending trial and any arrested going forward,” said Chief Deputy DA of the Santa Barbara County DA's Office Mag Nicola.

Dow feels some of the offenses included in the order are indeed violent crimes.

“Like domestic violence including child abuse and elder abuse, those are not on the penal codes list of violent offenses,” said Dow. This means individuals who are being accused of those crimes could be set free with no bail.

Social Justice advocate Leonard Flippen said that the order is necessary.

“The idea of social distancing is to keep us safe. Inmates in institutions should have the same protection as normal human beings out side of the institutions,” said Flippen.

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County DA's offices emphasize the accused and criminal history, should to be looked at per person.

“There are certain cases where we will bring to the court's attention that they retain the power under the constitution to assess bail on people who threaten public safety,” said Nicola.

Dow argues not all counties are even experiencing COVID outbreaks in the jail system.

“In SLO County we still don't have one documented case of an inmate with COVID-19,” said Dow.

Flippen says the order is trying to keep it that way.

“Especially in lew of the fact that the population we are talking about has not been convicted of the crime they are being accused of. At what point do we say you are a human being that deserves to be safe verses you are a human being that doesn’t,” said Flippen.

At a News Conference this afternoon, District Attorney Dan Dow said 30 people are being considered for release from San Luis Obispo County Jail. A third of those hearings were held this afternoon. And about nine inmates will be released tonight.

The rest of the inmates will have hearings tomorrow. Santa Barbara County said it filed 17 appeals with inmates being considered for release. They are waiting to hear what happens with those motions

California / San Luis Obispo County / Santa Barbara - South County / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
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Naja Hill

Naja Hill is a reporter for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Naja, click here.

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