Prisoners in L.A. jail attempt to get COVID-19 for early release

The L.A. country sheriff says some prisoners believed contracting the virus would help them get out

Security video of inmates at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, Calif., on April 26, 2020. (LASD)

Some prisoners in a Los Angeles jail wanted out but they chose a head-scratching way to try to do so. According to the Los Angeles County Sherriff, a group of prisoners tried to get the coronavirus, hoping that would be their ticket out.

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According to the San Jose Mercury News, approximately two dozen inmates passed a cup of water around and shared a mask, likely in the hopes of passing the virus to each other, thinking that would earn them a release from jail, says Sheriff Alex Villanueva.


“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 told media via a virtual press conference.

The men were jailed at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, Cal. The all-male jail, part of Los Angeles County, is a large jail complex off I-5 in Southern California.

The men were caught on surveillance footage apparently drinking hot water in the hopes of elevating their temperature before a health check, reports CBS Los Angeles.

A week later, there was a 60% increase in COVID-19 cases in the prison, which until authorities saw the tape, they couldn’t explain. Now there are 357 inmates that have tested positive an increase from 123 in less than two weeks.

“There’s a reason why these people are behind bars to begin with, because they violated the norms of society,” Villanueva said at the briefing. “But to 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.”

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Over 5,000 inmates have been released from the Los Angeles County inmate population which had a total of 17,000 inmates in February. The coronavirus has forced the release of non-violent prisoners nationwide as the infection spread.

Social distancing is almost impossible in most prisons and jails and the virus has proliferated. One of the more high-profile felons releases since the epidemic is Black Mafia head Terry Flenory who was sent to home confinement with six more years on his sentence. His brother, Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory, is still awaiting a final decision on his on early release request.

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