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US attorney opposes release of inmates amid COVID-19 pandemic

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo of a Washington, DC jail

A US attorney has officially opposed release of prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that “violent criminals” should not be set free.

The attorney for Washington, DC, Timothy Shea, expressed the opposition Saturday in response to an emergency motion filed by the Public Defender Service general counsel Thursday.

“These misdemeanor defendants include violent criminals convicted of offenses involving vicious and armed assaults, assault on police officer and other first responders, bomb threats, voyeurism, stalking, indecent exposure to minors, and domestic violence,”  Shea said in a statement. “This pandemic should not be used as a basis to release violent criminals onto the streets of Washington.”

According to the motion, outbreaks of COVID-19 “are far from speculative — they are imminent, with confirmed positive cases [at the jail] now approaching double digits.”

The Public Defender Service general counsel introduced the motion after several inmates in Washington jails tested positive for the coronavirus.

Two DC prisoners have also sued Hope Village, the jail they are held in, over defying coronavirus regulations such as social distancing.

“Hope Village does not encourage or practice social distancing in its facilities,” their complaint claimed.

There were meanwhile concerns about the conditions of prisoners as the pandemic was growing fast across the states amid a shortage of medical supplies.

US President Donald Trump said Friday evening that he was invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to prevent the export of surgical masks and gloves.

“Today’s order is another step in our ongoing fight to prevent hoarding, price gouging, and profiteering by preventing the harmful export of critically needed PPE," the White House said in a statement. "It will help ensure that needed PPE is kept in our country and gets to where it is needed to defeat the virus."

The Trump administration is facing unprecedented criticism over its poor response to the outbreak as well as spread of disinformation about COVID-19.

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