State Watch

LA sheriff: Inmates deliberately trying to catch coronavirus in attempt to secure release

People incarcerated in Los Angeles County have been documented attempting to contract the coronavirus and fake symptoms of the disease in an attempt to secure early release, the county sheriff said Monday.

CBS affiliate CBSLA reported that Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a press conference that inmates wrongly believed that an increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in the jails would result in some being released early. The county has already reduced its inmate population by thousands amid the crisis.

“There was some mistaken belief among the inmate population that if they tested positive, there was a way to force our hand and somehow release more inmates out of our jail environment, and that’s not gonna happen,” he said.

Inmates have been seen on video obtained by CBSLA sharing heated water bottles in an attempt to appear feverish when tested via an oral thermometer. Others were reportedly seen sharing a mask or breathing into small cups and instructing others to do the same.

“With the hot water, they were trying to falsely elevate their temperature readings to generate a symptom for COVID-19,” the sheriff said. 

“[A]ll of a sudden we saw a spike, a few weeks, ago, a very noticeable jump, and we couldn’t really understand why, when everything seemed to be going the way we wanted to,” Villanueva continued. “Had this pandemic swept through while we were sitting on 17,000 inmates, the results would have been catastrophic.”

More than 350 inmates in the county have confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to CBSLA. Just under 4,600 inmates are currently in quarantine, about 40 percent of the total inmate population.

Villanueva said at the press conference Monday that the inmates’ actions endangered not only themselves, but officers of the prison system.

“[T]o then imperil not only their only safety, but the safety of their fellow inmates who did not want to participate in this behavior…it also endangers all the personnel, both the professional staff and the sworn staff,” he said.

Tags Coronavirus

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