TAMPA, Fla. -- Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced on Thursday morning that 164 "low level, nonviolent" offenders would be released from county jails amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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"These defendants are the lowest public safety risk, and were merely sitting in jail because they cannot afford to pay the amount it would take to bond out," Chronister said. "These defendants will still have to answer to the charges against them."
The move is intended to help protect detention deputies, their families and other inmates. Chronister said, at this time, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in any county jails.
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"I want to also make clear that violent offenders who posed the highest risk to our community will remain in jail while they await their due process in our criminal court," Chronister added.
Chronister said he hopes those released will make the most of the opportunity to be with loves ones.
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"It is my hope that these individuals will make the most of this opportunity to be with their loved ones, help them prepare, comfort them and quarantine with them," Chronister said. "We cannot risk unnecessarily exposing our deputies to this virus."
Chronister said these low-level offenders will not be tested for COVID-19 prior to leaving the jail, but they were given health screenings when they were admitted. Chronister said no inmates are currently showing any symptoms of COVID-19.