Photo Credits: KIYOMI WATSON / AGGIE
Inmates released after California Judicial Council adopts new rule aimed at lowering prison populations during pandemic
Pre-trial inmates in Yolo County released due to the statewide emergency $0 bail schedule due to COVID-19 have committed several crimes. The plan was instituted by the California Judicial Council on April 6.
The emergency rule set the bail for pre-trial inmates charged with misdemeanors and lower-level felonies to $0 — an effort to decrease crowding in California jails during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Yolo County Sheriff’s Office expressed its disapproval for this decision in a press release a few days after the rule came into effect.
“We have made important decisions in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to protect the health of staff, inmates, and the community,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, the efforts of this Office and the efforts of our public safety partners throughout Yolo County are not being considered as decisions at the state level are made and imposed upon us.”
The Sheriff’s Office noted that they had already taken measures to protect inmates against COVID-19, like reducing the jail population to 250 below maximum capacity and allowing each inmate to be individually housed to enforce social distancing.
“Additional efforts we have made include enhanced medical screening procedures for all incoming inmates, a screening for all inmates already in custody, and daily medical screenings for all staff arriving for duty,” the press release added.
County officials expressed concerns that inmates could pose a threat to the public if released before their trial date.These concerns were confirmed only a few days later, when the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office announced that a man had been charged with additional felonies after being let out on $0 bail.
After his release, Woodland resident Jacob Dakota James was charged with auto theft on three separate occasions before being rearrested on April 18, according to a press release from the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office. James allegedly committed two felonies the day of his release, April 9.
Since then, the District Attorney’s Office noted three other inmates who were released due to the Statewide Emergency “0” Bail Schedule and have been rearrested for allegedly committing more crimes. The four men who were rearrested faced charges such as assault with a deadly weapon, attempted carjacking and looting within an affected county in a state of emergency, among other crimes. Additionally, each man was charged with the misdemeanor, “violation of an order issued by Yolo County Public Health officials during an epidemic.”
Shaun Lamar Moore, one of the men rearrested, was initially charged for burglary and attempted possession of a restricted biological agent after allegedly stealing a COVID-19 specimen from Davis Sutter Hospital. He allegedly impersonated a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official in order to obtain the sample, as reported by The California Aggie.
After his first arrest, police noted that they did not think Moore intended to harm others and added that they were investigating whether any mental health conditions played a role in the crime. During his bail hearing, the court ordered that Moore could be released if he was fitted with a GPS tracking device and monitored by the probation department.
Three days following his release, Moore allegedly committed petty theft in Sacramento, and sexual battery in Woodland, according to a press release by Yolo County. His bail is currently set at $10,000.
Though the $0 bail schedule is facing pushback on local levels, Justice Marsha G. Slough noted that this rule strikes “a balance between public safety and public health,” during a California Judicial Council meeting on April 6. Those with, “serious and violent offences, domestic violence, sex offenders, restraining order violations, and certain gun offenses,” would remain at the current bail schedule, according to Slough.
She added that this rule will bring greater consistency across all California courts — some of which had already adopted a $0 bail schedule before the April 6 meeting — and still allow for some local discretion.
“During this time, however, there is a need for greater uniformity throughout the state,” Slough said. “This proposal provides that uniformity while still allowing for higher amounts of bail and local discretion for the most serious offenses.”
Written by: Madeleine Payne — firstname.lastname@example.org