The Monroe Correctional Complex on April 9, one day after inmates held a demonstration after six inmates tested positive for COVID-19. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

The Monroe Correctional Complex on April 9, one day after inmates held a demonstration after six inmates tested positive for COVID-19. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Under court order, 46 inmates released to Snohomish County

More are to be freed this week as the state works to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons.

OLYMPIA — Forty-six inmates have been freed early from state correctional facilities and returned to Snohomish County, where they had been convicted of stealing cars, selling drugs, burglaries and other crimes.

Of the total, 42 had their sentences commuted and four were furloughed from work release. Statewide, as of Tuesday morning, 440 men and women had been released early with commuted sentences and 41 had been released through furloughs.

The releases began April 17 and are continuing this week as the state Department of Corrections looks to protect those behind bars from COVID-19 by thinning their populations in prisons and work-release facilities across the state.

In all, about 1,000 inmates will be freed under a plan submitted to the state Supreme Court, in an order aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus in Washington’s 12 prisons and 12 work release facilities.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Corrections Steve Sinclair have said the move will enhance efforts at social distancing inside each facility. Other steps in the plan include requiring staff and inmates to wear masks; continued testing of inmates with COVID-like symptoms; isolating those who test positive; and quarantining those with whom they’ve come in close contact.

Thus far, 13 inmates and 21 Department of Correction staff members have tested positive for the potentially deadly disease. Of those, 12 inmates and seven staff are at Monroe Correctional Complex.

Amid news of the initial outbreak, dozens of prisoners in a minimum-security wing of the Monroe prison protested April 8, leading a prison response team to use pepper spray and rubber pellets to quell the unrest.

Inmates petitioned the Supreme Court last month to order large-scale release. It was an emergency order sought by their attorneys that prompted the court to push the state to act right away, prompting early releases.

Oral arguments on the original petition are scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday. The hearing will be carried live on TVW.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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