The San Diego County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday announced the creation of a team that will notify local crime victims when prisoners connected to their cases are being released from custody as part of a statewide effort to reduce the prison population amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of inmates have been released early and thousands more could be eligible for impending release as part of efforts to improve quarantine measures within California's prisons, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Expedited release criteria includes being at high-risk should an inmate contract COVID-19 or having less than a year on their remaining sentence.
The local office says it has received notifications regarding hundreds of prisoners who have been released so far, though it says CDCR is only notifying victims registered with its victim notification system.
The DA's Office said its new team will notify victims of impending releases, and will provide victims with information regarding resources such as counseling and how to obtain a restraining order.
"We were very concerned that with CDCR focused on reducing the prison population due to the pandemic, victims were not getting any opportunity to be heard in this process, nor was CDCR notifying victims so they can take steps to provide for their safety," San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said.
"While many of the inmates being released were already nearing the end of their terms, CDCR is also releasing inmates who were sentenced to life terms for very serious offenses. We requested notice before San Diego releases began taking place, and we were able to get assurances in that regard. CDCR is now sending out expedited release notices to our office and our team is working quickly to notify affected victims whom we are able to locate in the short notice we will have and provide any needed resources."
Those interested in obtaining information regarding early releases -- particularly victims who are not registered with CDCR or those who have moved or changed numbers since the crime -- were asked to contact the DA's Victim Services Division at 619-531-4041.