The first group of state inmates who met criteria for the newly created early temporary release program have been released amid the COVID-19 health crisis, with one man approved from a case originating from Bucks County.
Bucks County District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said: “Despite some prisoners being released over our objections, we continue to work with the prison to strike a balance between public safety and the safety of those working in the jail, versus the jail’s ability to safely manage both the sick and healthy jail populations during this COVID pandemic.”
The temporary release program was called an “inappropriate overreach” by Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Turzai over the weekend, who said at the time, “unlawfully releasing these prisoners sends the wrong message to law-abiding Pennsylvanians who are counting on government to restore normalcy in a safe and responsible manner.”
Weintraub said the District Attorneys office received a list of 22 prisoners from corrections officials who cases were adjudicated in Bucks County that were being considered for release which a vast majority of the office “raised objections about.” Four of the 22 the office agreed with releasing preliminary with the group being within 90 days of their minimum sentence dates.
None of the four have committed crimes of violence or against any victims, he said.
While on temporary release, state officials said, individuals will be monitored similarly to parolees and will be supervised by parole officers. The costs involved with monitoring the released inmates will be paid for by the state.
Additionally, Weintraub said the inmate population at Bucks County Correctional Facility has been reduced by about 30 percent since the beginning of the crisis.
With respect to the release of county inmates, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office has had considerable input throughout the process, though some inmates have been released or placed on house arrest despite our objections, Weintraub said.
“All inmates will undergo COVID-19 screening prior to release. Some individuals may be released to community corrections centers, while others may be released to home confinement. In either case, all will be confined to their location and will be supervised by parole agents” said a Department of Corrections spokesperson.
An inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Phoenix died due to COVID-19 with contributing factors of hypertensive cardiovascular disease and liver cirrhosis, state officials said last week.
Bryan Fritz is the inmate released related to Bucks County. He pleaded guilty to drug related offenses in July of last year. He was sentenced to one-year of prison which is also concurrent with other sentences originating out of Bucks too.