CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two groups of prisoners have been released from the state’s regional jails and prisons in recent days to decrease population density in connection with concerns over the coronavirus.

According the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, 70 parolees serving short jail terms for parole violations were released recently. A similar number of work-release inmates, eligible for weekend furloughs because of good behavior, have had that extended to two weeks. The numbers of released inmates could grow, the agency said.

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Jeff Sandy

State Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy said during Gov. Jim Justice’s Friday afternoon media briefing on the coronavirus that state code gives Corrections Commissioner Betsy Jividen the authority to release some inmates.

Sandy said the agency has been meeting with the state Supreme Court on ways to address the issue. The latest meeting came Friday morning.

Sandy said, as of Friday, no correctional officers or inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

“No employee, no inmate has the COVID-19 virus,” Sandy said.

He mentioned they are checked twice-a-day.

“The reports are 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. and keep those people in your prayers,” Sandy said.

Meanwhile, a coalition including ACLU-WV has called on Justice to make a more widespread release of prisoners possible with a proposed executive order.

MORE read proposed executive order here

The coalition said the order “will protect the health of corrections workers and incarcerated individuals alike.”

Several other states have released inmates in connection with the coronavirus.