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COVID-19 spurs release of Bucks prisoners

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To date, Bucks County’s jail and its community corrections centers have had 19 staff members and 33 inmates test positive for COVID-19, according to Larry King, the county’s public information director.

In an effort to constrain the virus’ spread, county officials have reduced the correctional facilities’ population from 909 to 630, a 31 percent decrease, King said. The 279 inmates released were screened for early release, bail reductions and supervision in lieu of total confinement, he noted.

The prisoners are generally low-level offenders and some will be monitored with GPS devices, added King.

The releases and home confinements were necessary, said the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office, “to ensure the safety and health of the staff at these facilities, as well as the inmate population.”

While the district attorney’s office had “considerable input” into the releases, officials said “some inmates have been released or placed on house arrest despite our objections.”

Additionally, the state prison system provided the DA’s office with a list of 22 inmates being considered for release. Their cases originated in Bucks County.

District Attorney Matt Weintraub said his office has objected to all but four of those releases. Each of those, he said, were within 90 days of their minimum sentence and had not committed violent crimes One of those was released last week. None of the prisoners will be placed in Bucks County facilities and will remain under state’s purview, according to the DA.

“Despite some prisoners being released over our objections, we continue to work with the prison to strike a balance between public safety and safety of those working in the jail, versus the jail’s ability to safely manage both the sick and healthy jail population during the COVID pandemic,” Weintraub said in a statement.


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