LOS ANGELES – California is releasing thousands of prisoners early in the hopes of slowing the spread of coronavirus within the inmate population.
Surekha Weinberg was recently released from the California Institution for Women where there are confirmed cases of COVID-19. She spent 11 years in prison. She was sentenced for a deadly DUI.
“It’s almost to think about it, like nightmarish, to be released and you’re released into an environment where there is a virus creeping around on every surface and through the air,” said Susan Burton, the founder of A New Way of Life.
A former prisoner herself, Burton started her nonprofit to house formerly incarcerated women. In the middle of this pandemic she decided to open up her ninth safe home in South Los Angeles specifically to give newly released prisoners a place to feel safe despite COVID-19.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirms there have been several hundred people within the prison system who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Weinberg views her release date as well timed.
“I wasn’t really worried myself about getting sick because at the time it wasn’t in the prison. Once it gets in I knew it would spread basically like wildfire. Once it’s there everyone is going to get it,” said Weinberg.
Even though she’s free, Weinberg is living with many restrictions not only as a parolee, but also as a citizen under quarantine. Her outings are extremely limited and she is escorted to the grocery store. Weinberg isn’t able to physically meet with her family since they are not quarantined together.
The nonprofit is leasing the new house where Weinberg is staying for a year, but hopes to keep it a safe home for much longer than that.