The New Mexico Corrections Department has released 92 prisoners since the COVID pandemic began, state officials said Thursday, and in the next week, that number could triple. The expected bump in releases follows months of demands from advocates.
For 16 weeks straight, protestors have been out every Friday calling for inmates to be freed from prisons and jails, where hygiene products can be scarce and social distancing often impossible. KUNM covered one of those demonstrations in late April, a few weeks after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an executive order outlining eligibility for early release.
As of June 24, just 71 inmates had been released under the governor's order.
In early July, Corrections Department officials told KOAT the state’s prison population should be reduced by five percent at the end of the month. That would mean releasing about 300 people, based on the inmate population of 6,250 listed on the department's website this week.
At a press conference Thursday, Lujan Grisham said she’ll make sure the department is on track to do that, “because we have the ability to do that,” she said. “We think it’s responsible, smart, and an effective way to both protect our population, our workers, and do the right criminal justice impacts and reforms to do.”
The Corrections Department officials say they’re working to release inmates with severe medical conditions, those over age 60 who are high-risk for COVID complications, and people locked up for technical probation and parole violations who aren’t deemed a threat to public safety.
The New Mexico Department of Health reported a new record high daily case count on Thursday, with 343 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.
As of July 23, state officials report 466 cases among state inmates in the Otero County prison, 24 at the prison in Los Lunas, two at the Lea County prison, and one each at state prisons in Cibola and Santa Fe counties.
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