Texas and California plan to release some inmates to cut the population of their jails. Officials are concerned about the spread of coronavirus into Texas’ already overcrowded prison systems. At the end of March, a Houston area federal judge ordered Harris County to start releasing about 250 non-violent inmates per day. The inmates who will be released, are non-violent offenders who are still waiting for their trials.
Inmates are at a Higher Risk of Contracting Coronavirus
The United States already has more reported cases of coronavirus than China and Italy. The coronavirus can spread incredibly quickly in places with lots of people. Many Dallas prisons also suffer from a lack of access to quality health care and poor hygiene. Federal guidelines have required people to practice social distancing and to stay more than six feet away from other people. Practicing social distancing is impossible in prisons that are crowded well over their design capacity.
Coronavirus Cases in Dallas Reach 17
Prisoner advocates in Texas have asked for the immediate release of up to 4,000 county prisoners. They are concerned that the coronavirus will spread like wildfire through the jail systems. As of March 31, five Dallas County Jail inmates have already tested positive for coronavirus.
The Dallas County Health and Human Services reports that there are 17 cases of COVID-19 in Dallas County jails, a number that had tripled since the week before. One of the prisoners who tested positive was held in a pod with 50 other inmates before he was isolated.
Which Inmates Qualify for Release?
If you or a loved one is in a Texas jail, you might be wondering whether or not they qualify for release. Texas Governor Abbot recently issued an executive order that prohibits the release of any “dangerous felons” from Texas jails and prisons. Felonies are crimes in which the defendant can spend a year or longer in prison. The definition of the term dangerous is still up in the air. Inmates whose crime involved a weapon or some sort of violence are likely prohibited from being released early due to coronavirus.
Non-Violent Offenses in Texas
If you are a non-violent drug offender who is awaiting your trial in a Texas jail, you might qualify for early release. Under Texas law, non-violent drug offenders are usually considered those charged with drug possession or those who have consumed illegal drugs but who are not inherently violent. With non-violent drug offenses, defendants are not a threat to public safety, but they only harm themselves.
Non-violent offenses are usually misdemeanors that come with a sentence of less than a year in jail. The charges also depend on the type of drugs involved. Crimes involving heroin are usually charged more seriously than crimes involving marijuana.
When a crime did not involve aggression or violence, a skilled defense lawyer can usually negotiate a better plea deal for the defendant. If you are facing non-violent drug charges in Dallas and you are wondering if you might be eligible for release, Abel Law Firm can help. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.