Advocates push to release low level inmates from county jails

Posted at 7:04 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 22:04:57-04

MARICOPA COUNTY, AZ — Many of the people held in county jails have not actually been convicted of a crime.

That's just one of reasons the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU) is asking sheriffs around Arizona to release certain detainees and lessen potential exposure to COVID-19.

As of Friday, April 10, Maricopa County jails report zero cases of COVID-19.

28 inmates have been tested.

"There's not a solid game plan for COVID-19 in our incarceral system, period," said Khalil Rushdan with ACLU's Smart Justice Project.

He is hoping get some county inmates out before any test positive.

"Especially those pre-detainees," he said. "People who have not even been convicted of offenses."

The focus is also on those with underlying conditions, those that have less than a year left on their sentence and who are there because they can't afford to make bail.

A spokesperson for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) it does "not control the speed or volume for which inmates are released from custody."

The statement also says in part, "We have taken aggressive steps within our control and in collaboration with the judicial system to reduce our daily population from approximately 7,100 to 5,785."

Rushdan says advocates have no way to verify those numbers.

Instead, he says he wants the Governor Doug Ducey to issue an executive order implementing a uniform release program for lower risk inmates to increase transparency and accountability of county jails across the state.