By Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2020

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Officials are making plans to free some Kansas prison inmates who are close to finishing their sentences amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Laura Kelly said at a news conference Tuesday that “hopefully we will be able to move quite a few of those folks back into their community.” Priority will be given to inmates with “viable plans,” such as a place to live or a job. She offered no specific numbers and noted that the state will coordinate with local officials so that there will be “no surprises.”

The announcement comes after corrections officials announced that an outbreak at the Lansing Correctional Facility had grown to eight inmates and nine staff members.

Jails in Shawnee and Sedgwick County previously took steps to incarcerate fewer inmates. Several groups, including the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, have been urging state officials to take similar steps.

On Tuesday, the top federal public defender in Kansas also demanded the release of vulnerable defendants in a written statement. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas has opposed these requests in recent weeks.

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