(CNSNews.com) - Approximately 208,500 prisoners were granted “expedited release” from jails in the United States in the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic because of the pandemic, according to a report released by the U.S. Justice Department.
Jails also admitted fewer prisoners during that period, according to the report.
“The impact of COVID-19 on local jails began in March 2020, with a drop of 18% in inmate population between the end of February and the end of March, followed by an 11% drop by the end of April,” said the report published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
“By the last weekday in April 2020, the number of jail inmates dropped to a low of 519,500,” said the report. “By the end of May 2020, the population increased by about 3% and was up another 3% by the end of June 2020.
“The decline in the inmate population since midyear 2019 resulted from both a reduction in admissions to jails and expedited releases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic from March to June 2020,” said the report.
“From March to June 2020, about 208,500 inmates received expedited release in response to COVID-19,” said the report.
“During the pandemic, jail facilities became less crowded, as indicated by the decrease in occupied bed space from 81% at midyear 2019 to 60% at midyear 2020,” it said.
“Local jails reported 8.7 million admissions during the 12-month period ending June 30, 2020, which was about 16% lower than the 10.3 million admissions during the 12-month period ending June 30, 2019,” said the report.
“Expedited releases,” as defined by the report, include: “All inmates released to limit inmate risk and exposure, or due to coronavirus-related understaffing, court orders, and legislative mandates.”
“Admissions,” as defined by the report, include: “All persons booked into and housed in jail facilities by a formal legal document and the authority of the courts or some other official agency, including repeat offenders booked on new charges and persons sentenced to weekend programs or entering the facility for the first time.”
“In January 2020, the local jail population represented 97% of the midyear 2019 jail population,” said the report. “By midyear 2020, the size of the population declined to nearly 75% of the 2019 population.
“This decline is attributable to the pandemic-related reduction in admissions and expedited releases from March to June 2020,” the report said.