Hundreds of inmates released from Orange County Jail amid COVID-19

The State Attorney’s Office for the Ninth Circuit is trying to limit the number of inmates in jails during the outbreak.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala fears the tight confines of a jail poses an increased risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. She said the concern has led to the reduction in population of 300 inmates from the Orange County Jail. Many inmates are being released from custody, to await their trial.

“The reality of it spreading quicker, is extremely high,” said Ayala. “Ninety-five percent of people who are in the jail are coming back into our community, and if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the jail and those releases happen, guess what? We’re looking at our entire community being impacted.”

But who is being released? The State Attorney who oversees Orange and Osceola counties assures the public they are not dangerous criminals.

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“There is no one that is going to be released in light of COVID-19 because they are out carrying firearms, because they are out committing sexual batteries, because they are abusers, domestic violence abusers, because they’re committing robberies, dangerous types of crimes," said Ayala. "Those are the people who pose a danger and should be held in custody, pending their trial.”

Ayala said those who are released are jailed for offenses like suspended licenses, traffic crimes, possession of pot, or prostitution.

“What we’ve done is looked at people who are sitting in pre-trial, with either high bonds or unnecessary bond,” said Ayala. “When you look at lower level people who are going to end up getting a probation sentence and released anyhow, or their case will be dropped and they’d be released anyhow, we’re simply expediting the release.”

Ayala believes reducing the jail population not only protects the public but also the inmates and jailers,

“In this case, doing the right thing, is ensuring those who should not be in custody are not sitting in custody,” said Ayala.

Just because the inmates are released, it doesn’t mean they all get off scot-free. Most will be on probation as they await a trial date.

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