Inmates in close quarters in county jails

Covid-19 update: Inmates in close quarters in county jails

The latest updates on coronavirus in Texas: At least 38 Texans' deaths have been linked to COVID-19 as the state experiences a public health disaster. Community spread has been discovered, at least 2,877 cases have been disclosed and the number of positive tests is expected to increase exponentially.

As the new coronavirus continues to spread in Texas’ two biggest county jails, Gov. Greg Abbott has made it harder for thousands of inmates to get out of local lockups.

In an executive order Sunday, Abbott barred inmates accused or previously convicted of violent crimes from being released from jails without paying bail. Those with the same criminal history or the same charges can still walk free if they have access to cash — a distinction that bail reform attorneys argue makes the order unconstitutional.

The sweeping move — which suspends a swath of the state law on bail — comes as advocates and local governments across the country work to minimize population in lockups, where the risk of the new coronavirus is particularly high given poor sanitary conditions and close quarters. The virus has already reached the Harris County and Dallas County jails, as well as Texas prisons and a juvenile detention center. Abbott’s order came the same day that Harris County announced the first confirmed case in its jail, where some 30 inmates are showing symptoms of the virus and as many as 500 others may have been exposed.

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