SAN DIEGO — District Attorney Summer Stephan along with San Diego County Sheriff’s Department say that in the wake of the unprecedented Superior Court closure they have taken several proactive steps to address the threat of coronavirus to individuals being held in local jails.

They have enacted policies that promote the release of individuals arrested for low-level, non-violent crimes who normally would have been released if the court was open or can’t afford to post bail.

“From the moment we realized the court would likely close, we began working to find concrete solutions to lessen the impact coronavirus could have on the jail population and the health of the wider community while at the same time maintaining the public’s safety,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. “Our concerns include defendants who are not an imminent threat to public safety, who are unable to post bail and would be forced to wait weeks or potentially months for their first court appearance because of the court shut down.”

Normally, a person must be brought before a judge for arraignment within 48 hours of being arrested, not counting weekends or holidays. Given the current court closure, people unable to afford bail could potentially be in custody for at least three weeks.

In response, cases involving people in custody are continuing to be reviewed within statutory timelines. If no charges are going to be filed, the jail is quickly notified by the District Attorney so they can release the person (if that individual has nothing else keeping them in custody). If charges are going to be filed, the District Attorney is working with the Sheriff and the Court on an “electronic pre-arraignment review” to identify individuals whose charges are eligible for immediate release or bail reduction.

Other actions being taken by the District Attorney include:

• Identifying individuals in jail who are awaiting a trial or sentencing and may be eligible and suitable for release.

• Working with the Sheriff’s Department to prioritize the release of vulnerable inmates where appropriate. The DA is reviewing inmates who are medically fragile and vulnerable to determine if it’s appropriate to ask the court to re-sentence them.

• Supporting the option of the Sheriff’s Department applying accelerated credits to inmates serving local prison sentences for non-violent and non-sex related offenses, allowing some people nearing the end of their sentence to be released early.

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BACKGROUND: 

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing. 

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. 

  • Stay home when you are sick. 

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. 

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. 

The CDC also says facemasks should only be used by people who show symptoms of the virus. If you’re not sick, you do not have to wear a facemask.