Some Maine jails have begun releasing certain prisoners as a way to cope with the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce, in consultation with the District Attorney's Office, says he started releases this week for the first time in his career.
"There were some that I released Tuesday night from our Community Corrections Center,” he says. “They were individuals that were gonna be released in the next 90 days and anyone that gets over to the community corrections center generally has not committed a violent crime."
Joyce says ten prisoners were released, all of whom had less than three months to serve. All of them had been charged with minor crimes and were already working in the community. Joyce says he'll be looking at other inmates to see if they qualify for release as well.
Prisoners are considered a vulnerable population for infectious diseases like COVID-19 because they are housed in close proximity to one another.
Joyce says one prisoner has already been quarantined and tested for the coronavirus after exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Results are expected in the next several days.
Meanwhile, Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry says he is also working to reduce his jail population by offering conditional release to low-risk prisoners.