Los Angeles prisoners filmed trying to catch COVID-19 to secure early release

WION Web Team New Delhi May 12, 2020, 02.06 PM(IST)

Representative image. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

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"Somehow there was some mistaken belief among the inmate population that if they tested positive there was some way that it would force our hands and release inmates," Sky News quoted LA County sheriff Alex Villaneuva.

Two groups of inmates being held in a unit at the Los Angeles County jail were found to be sharing water bottles and a face mask in order to catch COVID-19 and secure an early release from prison, according to a report. 

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff, the behaviour resulted in almost half of the inmates in the unit later testing positive for the virus.

"Somehow there was some mistaken belief among the inmate population that if they tested positive there was some way that it would force our hands and release inmates," Sky News quoted LA County sheriff Alex Villaneuva.

"That is not going to happen," he added.

In April, officials were shocked to see a sudden increase in suspected COVID-19 cases at the North County Correctional Facility. There had been no coronavirus cases until then.

When they studied surveillance footage from a day-room, they saw inmates passing around and sniffing a face mask and drinking from a shared Styrofoam cup.

Investigators then found footage of a second incident where inmates were taking sips from the same bottle of hot water, moments before they were due to have their temperatures checked by a nurse.

Within weeks, 30 inmates - out of a population of around 50 in the unit - had either tested positive or fallen ill.

The Los Angeles County jail system is the biggest in the world and more than 5,000 inmates have been released during the coronavirus crisis. To qualify, inmates must be within 60 days of their scheduled release.