Colorado is following the trend also exercised by other states in reducing the number of inmates in the prisons as a response to the COVID-19 virus. As of the end of April, the state’s 24 prisons had 18,419 inmates. Department of Corrections (DOC) officials have moved 1,200 inmates to early parole as part of the governor’s executive order to ease crowding because the pandemic is particularly dangerous to prisoners living in tight quarters.
The DOC has shared no state-wide numbers regarding those inmates who tested positive, are hospitalized or deceased, but at least 262 inmates at the Sterling Facility have tested positive. Moreover, those inmates around Colorado with underlying health issues are now getting their own cell in hopes of keeping them safe from a virus that preys on the elderly and ill.
Part of a trend
The 1,200 released early on parole is another example of the trend where officials are pushing rehabilitation rather than incarceration. This has led to not incarcerating those convicted of non-violent crimes (white-collar crimes, DUI, drug charges, cybercrimes, or theft).
Other parole qualifications needed include:
- Those who committed a victimless crime
- Those who pose a low public safety risk
- Those who have underlying safety risks
- Those within 180 days of parole eligibility
- Those who are ill but have a place to go (thus avoid homelessness)
More on the way?
Unfortunately, the DOC is also not moving prisoners from smaller county jails, which means that some may also be in limbo as the backlog grows. However, families should monitor changes in policy at the DOC as this pandemic continues. Even if a loved one does not immediately qualify, the rules may change. Those with questions can contact an experienced criminal law attorney to discuss the circumstances of their case.