- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Inmates at a Los Angeles jail deliberately tried to infect each other with the coronavirus in hopes of securing an early release, the sheriff said Monday.

Multiple inmates at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic were seen on surveillance video passing around a cup and drinking from it, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a press conference. The cup was filled with hot water in an effort to raise their oral temperatures ahead of a temperature check, he said.

“It is very disturbing to think that people would do this to themselves deliberately in an attempt to force our hand to release more people from custody,” the sheriff said.

Within a week of the surveillance video, 21 inmates tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, he said.

In another video taken at the same jail, a group of inmates were seen passing around a mask and sniffing it. That case led to nine inmates catching the virus, according to Bruce Chase, the department’s assistant sheriff of custody operations.

The department said it is exploring criminal prosecution against inmates who intentionally spread the virus.

The news comes several weeks after Los Angeles County released hundreds of inmates early in an effort to lower the jail population and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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