California prison officials say as many as 17,600 inmates may be released early due to the coronavirus, 70 percent more than previously estimated and a total that victims and police say includes dangerous criminals who should stay locked up, reports the Associated Press.The releases are causing consternation as probation officers and community organizations scramble to provide housing, transportation and other services for inmates who may pose a public health risk because several hundred have been paroled while contagious. “It’s just been a total madhouse, quite frankly, and we’re doing this in the midst of a pandemic,” said Karen McDaniel, the statewide transportation and services liaison between community groups and corrections officials.
Among those released was Terebea Williams, 44, who served 19 years of an 84 years-to-life sentence for first-degree murder, carjacking and kidnapping. She was freed last week after being deemed at high medical risk for the virus. Williams’ victim, Kevin “John” Ruska, picked her up to drive her to work in 1998 but the pair argued and Williams forced him into the trunk of his own car at gunpoint. She shot him when he tried to escape. “Why is an inmate’s rights more important than a victim’s?” said his outraged sister, Dena Love. Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, whose office prosecuted Williams, and the advocacy group Crime Victims Alliance complained that victims and prosecutors are given little notice and no opportunity to object to the releases. So far, 51 inmates have died of the virus and there have been more than 8,400 cases among prisoners. Nearly 2,000 state prison system employees also have been infected and eight have died. Nationwide, more than 100,000 people were released from state and federal prisons between March and June, found an analysis by The Marshall Project and AP.