By Jason Pohl, The Sacramento Bee, May 27, 2020
California’s long history of altering its criminal justice system — from requiring life in prison for third-strike offenders to reducing the punishment for hundreds of crimes — is having another moment that could dramatically alter how the state locks people up.
In a seismic, almost overnight shift, California has jailed 21,700 fewer people — nearly one-third of its daily population — in county lockups since the new coronavirus hit the state. Prisons are holding about 5,500 fewer inmates than they did in late March.
The state has reduced bail to $0 for low-level offenses and sheriffs have cleared space in their jails to allow for better physical distancing. At the same time, fewer people are being arrested — jails are seeing less than half the number of weekly bookings than before the pandemic.