Ramsey County Chief Judge John Guthmann on Monday issued a new order expanding the number of inmates at the county workhouse who are eligible for early release in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Anyone deemed “medically vulnerable” or otherwise at high-risk of contracting COVID-19, as well as individuals serving sentences for misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses — with the exception of domestic violence-related crimes and certain DWI cases — now qualify to serve the rest of their term on electronic home monitoring.
Nonviolent felons, including those convicted of theft and low-level drug possession, are also eligible for release.
Ramsey County Community Corrections spokesman Chris Crutchfield said the workhouse is expected to release 20 people by the end of Tuesday.
Monday’s decision builds on a previous order Guthmann issued last week to help lower the workhouse’s population and slow the virus’ spread behind bars. The first order was more restrictive in qualifications.
The workhouse will have released about 85 people because of the two orders, Crutchfield said. (Some inmates were eligible for release regardless of the orders.)
Hennepin County Chief Judge Ivy Bernhardson issued an order last week mirroring Guthmann’s first order that allowed for the release of 18 people from the county workhouse. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman cut the jail population by 26%, from 815 inmates March 16 to 602 March 19.
LIZ SAWYER AND CHAO XIONG