Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is in the process of releasing almost 300 inmates in an effort to establish better social distancing within its jail.
District Court Judge Linda Bell issued an order Thursday afternoon granting Sheriff Joe Lombardo’s request to reduce the jail population by up to 10 percent. Clark County Detention Center, the jail operated by Metro, has 2,900 inmates housed there. That means the Metro could release up to 290 people.
To be eligible for release under the order, inmates must be non-violent offenders who meet one of three criteria:
- They have served at least 75 percent of their sentence.
- They are there because of a technical violation of their probation (meaning they didn’t commit a new crime).
- They are medically vulnerable and at a higher risk of complications with COVID-19.
According to Assistant Sheriff Chris Jones, inmate releases began Thursday night, hours after the judge signed the order, and were expected to be completed by Friday afternoon. The releases are permanent, meaning people will not be placed back into jail should the state lift the social distancing orders currently in place until April 30. Releases are also not contingent upon anyone paying bail.
Jones and Lombardo emphasized the public is not at greater risk due to the release of these inmates. People behind bars for domestic violence or other violent crimes — including driving under the influence — will not be eligible.
Lombardo added that if fewer than 10 percent of inmates meet the criteria for release, then Metro will not release a full 10 percent and will adjust their social distancing protocols accordingly.
As COVID-19 cases have increased and the death toll has risen, groups have urged governments to take effective measures to ensure prison and jail populations are protected and, if possible, aren’t confined behind bars where they could more easily succumb to rapidly spreading infections.
COVID cases within Metro
Four inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 12, according to Metro. One has been released from custody and is recovering at University Medical Center, two are isolated and recovering in negative air pressure rooms, and one inmate was released after serving their sentence.
Meanwhile, 12 Metro employees have tested positive out of 127 tested and 87 people were self-quarantining at home due to potential exposure. None of the employees who tested positive have required hospitalization and many of them have already returned back to work, according to Metro.
Jones added that prior to the pandemic, Metro had a culture of “if you had a little bit of a sniffle, you come to work and do your work. Today we’re screening for temperatures. We’re encouraging hand sanitizer, encouraging washing of hands.”
Metro has also instituted a policy where all inmates and employees will be required to wear masks at CCDC.
Crime is down
Violent crime is down 10 percent and property crime is down 27 percent.
There has been an uptick in calls related to domestic violence of domestic disturbances. As of April 11, domestic violence calls were up 13.3 percent. That represents approximately 500 additional calls, according to Lombardo. Domestic violence calls resulting in a report being filed or an arrest were up 6.6 percent, or approximately 9 calls.