March 25, 2020 / 11:45 AM / 11 days ago

German state to release some 1,000 prisoners due to coronavirus

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s most populous state North-Rhine Westphalia plans to release as many as 1,000 prisoners in order to free up cells to be used as quarantine rooms out of concern that coronavirus could spread unchecked in jails, its justice minister said.

The plan, first reported by Focus magazine, would see prisoners released who only had a short part of their sentence left to run. Sex offenders and those convicted of other violent crimes were explicitly excluded from the scheme, state justice minister Peter Biesenbach said.

“Right now we have only a handful of free spaces,” Biesenbach told reporters on Wednesday, adding that he expected other German states to follow suit.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Jon Boyle

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