LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The state plans to release more than 900 state prisoners because of the COVID-19 outbreak, state officials said Thursday.
Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order that will commute the sentences of 186 felons after screening them for COVID-19 and after making sure that they have a residence where they can be quarantined. If they fail to comply with certain guidelines, their sentences can be reimposed.
The governor said the prisoners were serving sentences for Class C and D felonies, the “two lowest-level felonies,” and none were convicted of violent or sex-related crimes. Certain felons were not eligible for this consideration, he said.
J. Michael Brown, the secretary of the governor’s executive cabinet, said the state identified the prisoners through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines as more susceptible to COVID-19 because they have respiratory, heart and/or other health problems.
The state is taking the action to protect the prisoners — but also the corrections officers and other workers, Brown said.
Before their release, the prisoners will be screened for COVID-19, and state officials will verify that they have a home where the prisoners can be quarantined. If they fail to comply with certain guidelines, their sentences can be reimposed, Brown said.
In addition, he said, the state has identified 743 inmates who are within six months of completing their sentences who also will be released, pending final processing the state hopes to complete next week.
“This is lightening the load on our corrections system, at the same time protecting some of the most vulnerable individuals who are in the corrections system,” Brown said.
He also said that the state has stepped up sanitation efforts and has imposed social distancing in the institutions as much as possible. Further, Brown said, some inmates are making personal protective equipment — though not medical grade — to lower their risk of contracting the illness.
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