By Cres Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO, CA – Never willing to release incarcerated from the Sacramento County Jails, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Dept. Thursday admitted in a news conference that the latest COVID-19 outbreak was forcing them to release more than 200 people, whether the Sheriff likes it or not.
As Omicron cases spike locally, statewide and nationally, the jails said they need the space to quarantine the infected, something they were not willing to do when COVID-19 broke out, despite a spate of legal actions by public defenders and outrage by the community.
In 2020, and 2021, The Vanguard was informed by the incarcerated that most jailers and incarcerated were not provided masks – with some of those jailed using pieces of clothing, including socks, as makeshift defenses from the more virulent Delta strain.
Now, it seems the jail has little choice.
“There’s no other way around it at this point. “This is a very hard thing for the Sheriff’s Office to do,” said the Sheriff spokesperson.
“This Omicron variant is very contagious and easily spread from person to person. The transmission we are seeing in the jails mimics what we are seeing in the community,” said Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye in a statement.
Jail critics, like Decarcerate Sacramento, have demanded the jail not only treat those inside humanely in face of the COVID threat, but have charged that the jails – with a capacity of about 3,200 – have recently returned to pre-pandemic levels after dropping about 1,000 of so during the height of pandemic.
The Sheriff’s Office promises that those released will only be low-level offenders, or alleged offenders – about 70 percent of the people in jail are just waiting for their court dates – also the victims of COVID-19 which has delayed trials by nearly two years.
The jails reported cases had increased more than four times in about a week with about 156 incarcerated cases Thursday between the downtown jail and Rio Consumnes Correctional Center – nearly twice s many downtown that at the Elk Grove facility.
But the new outbreak is hitting not just incarcerated but also jail workers, the county admitted.