Inmate releases as part of a statewide effort to reduce jail populations to mitigate COVID-19 risks will be done on a case-by-case basis instead of a blanket court action.

The Hawaii Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday following the recommendations of Special Master Dan Foley. In an April 9 interim report, Foley said judges should be involved in the process.

The statewide effort involving the judiciary to reduce jail population was prompted by petitions the state public defender’s office filed with the Supreme Court seeking the release of hundreds of prisoners to reduce the threat of infection.

Public health experts and organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have said the incarcerated population is more at risk of the virus, prompting mass releases in some jurisdictions around the country.

The court said in the order that those seeking release should file motions by April 20, leading to decisions by April 28. It will be up to judges to decide whether released inmates will be required to verify a residence they can go to.

It also said that the Hawaii Paroling Authority, which has suspended all hearings since March 20, should move forward with early parole considerations, especially for the most vulnerable inmates, including the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

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