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Pima County Jail inmates released to keep correctional officers, inmates safe from COVID-19

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PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. - The inmates released from the Pima County Jail Friday are non-violent offenders.

Sheriff Mark Napier of the Pima County Sheriff's Department told News 4 Tucson this is not a get out of jail free card and that this is strictly due to the Coronavirus outbreak, keeping Correctional Officers and inmates safe.

"We want to discourage overflow into the jail because because that is how the virus will be introduced into the jail,"said Sheriff Napier.

That is the goal of this operation: limiting the amount of inmates inside the Pima County Jail, while keeping the population and correctional officers safe during COVID-19.

However, in order for this to happen, a court order has to take place.

In addition to PCSD, the Pima County Attorney's Office, the attorney general and a judge are also involved in this situation.

Now, there are very strict policies that have been put in to place.

"Not only do we check to make sure that right person is being released, but we double check," said Joshua Arnold, Pima County Jail captain. "We do have very strict policies in place to make sure that happens. Again, we do not want anyone leaving the jail without a court order."

The jail made a list of inmates to release. The inmates on the list are non-violent offenders that have been charged but have not gone to trial yet.

Examples of non-violent offenses include shop lifting or possession of drugs.

Napier said he would never release inmates who would pose a threat to the community.

"We are making responsible decisions here as a criminal justice system here in Pima County on who can be safely released," said Sheriff Napier. "This isn't a get out of jail free card or a forever 'you are not going to be held accountable of the crimes you have committed.' This is a thoughtful approach to understanding."

Napier continued, "Do we really have to have that person, from a public safety standpoint, incarcerated right now from a the crisis that we face? If that answer is no, then that person gets released."

Rodolfo Carrera is one of the inmates from Pima County Jail that was charged with a non-violent offense.

"There's four people who got released in the last hour, including me," said Carrera. "I think they are going however the system works."

News 4 Tucson's Allie Potter asked Carrera what is next for him.

"Hopefully meet my girlfriend and go downtown," said Carrera. "Probably just start my life again."

Allie Potter

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