LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — UPDATE 10 P.M.: Victim advocate groups are applauding Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo's decision to release hundreds of non-violent inmates to slow the spread of COVID-19 within the Clark County Detention Center.
"I don't see what other choices they had," said Liz Ortenburger, the CEO of SafetNest.
"We know as a country we are in need of reform around how we're imprisoning people," said Ortenburger.
SafeNest is one of the largest and most well-known domestic violence shelters in Las Vegas.
Ortenburger says, while tough, she understands the need to release some inmates.
"No violent offenders are being released, and the sheriff said specifically domestic violence will not be released because he recognizes the fear that would put into any victim that is trying to navigate and try to escape that epidemic of domestic violence," said Ortenburger.
Sheriff Lombardo said domestic violence calls have increased 13% since the shutdown and stay at home directives went into place in March across Nevada.
For context, Sheriff Lombardo says that is about 500 additional calls in which police officers responded.
"As sheriff, my primary concern is the safety of this community," said Sheriff Lombardo.
"The pandemic has presented a situation that I had to balance public safety and the health of LVMPD personnel as well as the inmates," said Sheriff Lombardo.
The sheriff said violent offenders, including domestic violence and DUI inmates, will remain locked up as part of the inmate reduction plan.
The inmates that have served at least 75 percent of their sentences or have medical issues will be among those that are released.
"Inmates that are medically vulnerable, as you can imagine, we want to try and get those out of our custody because they present an even greater threat of getting COVID-19," said Asst. Sheriff Chris Jones.
The sheriff says the jail has been working to reduce the inmate population for the past 18 months, but the effort has really increased in the past 30 days.
The overall inmate population has dropped by about 30 percent since the COVID-19 onset in March.
“As this unprecedented situation prompts leaders to take precautionary actions to protect inmates, corrections officers, civilian employees, and patrol officers, we will also watch to see that our citizens and past victims are not put in danger due to COVID-related inmate releases at any facility in Nevada. At today’s news conference, Sheriff Lombardo assured citizens that NO inmates held on ALLEGED VIOLENT OFFENSES or DUI charges would be released under the court order dated April 16, 2020. We appreciate the restrictions of this decision, and hope the good citizens of Clark County continue to be considered when making these difficult decisions.”
If you or someone you know needs help with a domestic violence situaton, call or text the 24/7 crisis hotline at 702-646-4981
ORIGINAL STORY: Sheriff Joe Lombardo revealed during a press conference on Friday afternoon that 290 inmates are being released from the Clark County Detention Center.
The sheriff says the release is necessary to protect the inmates and staff from the COVID-19 pandemic. The inmates who are being released are the ones who are at most risk for illness, had served the majority of their time, non-violent, and were being held on technical violations of probation.
Lombardo said that no inmates who are being held for violent crimes or driving under the influence are being released. Although some of the inmates will be monitored electronically after their release, most of them will not. In addition, the remaining inmates will be required to wear masks along with the employees.
He also said that 4 inmates have tested positive and 3 of the inmates were released.
The sheriff also revealed that 127 Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department employees have been tested and that 12 people tested positive. None of the people who tested positive required hospitalization and 87 employees are currently in self-isolation either because of exposure or recent travel.
Lombardo also said there is now a hiring freeze in place for the police department and let go of all part-time employees.
The measures could yield $17 million in expenditure savings.
It was also revealed in the press conference that property crime is down 10% and burglaries are down 27%. However, there has been an increase in domestic disturbance and domestic violence calls. As of April 11, calls are up about 13%, which is about 500 calls.
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