11th Judical District Attorney Kaitlin Turner issued a statement Thursday about COVID-19 and prisoners.

Turner noted that across the U.S., judges are ordering release of inmates from jail because of COVID-19.

In Colorado, she said, the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender is recommending that the governor take action to reduce the number of people in jails by instructing law enforcement to arrest fewer people and asking judges to release people from incarceration.

“The 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office wants the community to know that public safety is still our top priority in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Turner said.

She said defense attorneys have have been filing motions aimed at securing their clients’ immediate release from jail – through either motions for bond modifications or motions to reduce sentences.

In one such case, a defense attorney asked for release of an individual being held on a first-degree murder charge on a $250,000 cash-only bond at $250,000. The defense attorney’s motion, if granted, would allow him to walk free from the jail without posting any monetary bond, Turner said.

Turner said some judges, over the objections of prosecutors, have used their own initiative to reduce sentences, “acting on the unfounded suggestion by defense bar lobbyists that defendants cannot safely be housed in any jail throughout Colorado or the nation due to COVID-19.”

In line with CDC guidelines for halting spread of the COVID-19 virus, the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court issued a directive Monday in which he asserted that the courts of this state can no longer continue normal operations and must begin operating on a limited and emergency basis.

However, Turner said, courts in the 11th Judicial District remain open for judges to hear arguments on motions to release defendants from jail.

“The 11th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is confident that our sheriff’s offices in Fremont, Chaffee, Park and Custer county are equipped and ready to provide for the safety and welfare of their inmates in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak while also accomplishing their mission of safeguarding the public,” Turner said.

“While we have made some changes to our normal day-to-day operations in the District Attorney’s Office, in line with CDC recommendations, we will continue to appear in court to represent the people in standing up for victims and the right for our community to be safe from criminals, even during a pandemic.

“Our dedicated staff will continue to keep our community safe to the best of our ability, regardless of all the uncertainty we are facing.”

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