Advocates press for more inmates to be released as Philly prisons show first dip in COVID-19 cases

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) Philadelphia officials reported 61 coronavirus cases in Philadelphia jails — with three recoveries, bringing the numbers down — but advocates believe the situation is getting worse, not better, based on inmate testimony.

"This is going to spread even more and people will die if we do not act,” said Malik Neal, an organizer with Philadelphia Bail Fund. 

"I don't want to die in here. I know what crimes I committed, but my crimes don't carry the sentence,” she said.

Philadelphia Bail Fund is calling for more transparency surrounding infections. They claim dozens of correction officers have tested positive. But the city has declined to release data on infections among city workers, citing privacy reasons.

"The courts have actually had a number of hearings all week. They've actually had a number of courtrooms running,” said Managing Director Brian Abernathy.

Abernathy says the city is working to lower the inmate population, releasing 600 inmates since March 16. The courts rolled out new protocols this week, prioritizing low-risk, non-violent inmates. 

So far, judges have reviewed dozens of cases. There is no word yet on the number of releases under the new protocols.