Wolf executive order will release inmates to slow spread of COVID-19 in prisons

KYW Staff
April 10, 2020 - 2:11 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Gov. Tom Wolf used his executive powers on Friday to order the sate's Department of Corrections to free some inmates from state prisons amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Those releases could start as early as next week.

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Under the executive order, the DOC is required to create a temporary program that will shorten sentences for qualified inmates — transferring those individuals to halfway houses or placing them under house arrest.

State Rep. Jordan Harris says the move will free up space in the prisons making it easier to follow social distancing guidelines and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among inmates and corrections staff.

They will look at non-violent offenders and focus on inmates who are within nine to 12 months of release, Harris said.

"District attorneys in local counties are involved in the process. The courts are involved in the process," he said.

Harris wouldn't say how many inmates could be released.

"These are measures and steps that need to be taken in extraordinary times."

As of Friday, the DOC reports 18 positive COVID-19 infections among staff and eight among inmates. Release of inmates is expected to begin on April 14.

New cases and deaths

The Department of Health confirmed confirmed 1,751 new positive cases of COVID-19 since Thursday, raising the statewide total to 19,979. There were 78 new deaths reported, bringing the statewide total to 416.

There are 93,040 patients who have tested negative to date.

Aid for health care providers

More than 12,600 hospitals and other health care providers in the state will get about $1.25 billion of the first $30 billion disbursement of the Provider Relief Fund, authorized by the federal CARES Act.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said it will help cover expenses relating to the statewide coronavirus response and help care for patients in need.

The CARES Act authorized $100 billion for the states for this purpose.

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KYW Newsradio's Cherri Gregg and Eric Walter contributed to this report.