Pima County Attorney’s Office plans to release non-violent, pretrial inmates to combat COVID-19 spread

Pima County Attorney’s Office plans to release non-violent, pretrial inmates to combat COVID-19 spread
This file photo shows the outer fencing of the Pima County Adult Detention complex. Officials with the Pima County Attorney's Office plan to release non-violent, pretrial inmates to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Officials with the Pima County Attorney’s Office are working with multiple agencies to release non-violent inmates from the county jail by the end of the week.

Amelia Cramer, chief deputy county attorney, said the release would apply to pretrial inmates only, meaning those who have been arrested and charged but are awaiting trial in the Pima County jail.

While there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the Pima County jail, however, Cramer said, the goal to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Officials received a list of non-violent crimes Monday, March 23, 2020, to review for potential release, Cramer said. It’s unclear how many people would be released, she said, and that decision would be decided by presiding judges over each case. Inmates who are released can be released under supervision or under their own recognizance, depending on the judge’s orders.

Non-violent crimes, Cramer said, include charges like drug possession or paraphernalia, low-level property crimes or probation violations. However, officials still need to review the inmate’s background for things like prior convictions or gang affiliation before they are released.

“It’s who can be released in the community who does not pose a public safety risk,” Cramer said. “... We have to do about four different levels of checking before we say ‘yes.’”

Officials with the county attorney’s office are looking for housing options for released inmates in need and will provide transportation from the Pima County jail, Cramer said.

“The number of defendants we are talking about are poor and homeless,” she said.

Along with inmate releases, Cramer said many trials have been postponed and much of what law enforcement officials do has moved online because of the outbreak.

“This has been a dramatic overhaul of how we do business and have done it all in a little over a week,” she said.

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