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Protesters demand the release of non-violent county jail inmates during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 10:07 PM, Jul 10, 2020

OGDEN, Utah — Protesters in two Utah cities are demanding the release of non-violent inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The protests were held simultaneously in Ogden and St. George outside county prosecutor offices Friday night.

Nineteen-year-old Raul Moreno tested positive for COVID-19 last week in the Weber County Jail.

“Right now, all that they are giving him is Tylenol for the fever only. Nothing for the cough,” said Elizabeth Moreno, Raul’s sister.

Federal charges accuse Raul of possessing a gun while being an undocumented immigrant. He has only one kidney which poses a higher risk for COVID-19 complications.

"I think it is not fair just to throw them inside while we are having this pandemic,” Elizabeth said.

Three of Raul’s siblings joined two dozen protesters outside the Weber County Attorney’s office demanding the release of non-violent inmates during an influx of COVID-19 inside the jail.

“There are ankle bracelets, things like that where they can be monitored. We don’t think that a jail sentence equals a death sentence,” said Malik Dayo of Black Lives Matter.

Testing at the Weber County jail discovered 31 more inmates have COVID-19 this week, bringing the total count to 114.

Nationally, the confined spaces inside jails and prisons allowed COVID to spread quickly and often undetected.

In Weber County, 89 percent of COVID positive inmates are asymptomatic, officials said.

“We are looking very closely at reducing that population as much as we can without impacting public safety,” Weber County District Attorney Chris Allred said.

Allred told FOX13 his office is reviewing hundreds of cases involving non-violent offenders so they can recommend early release or home detention to a judge.

“We’ve taken already pretty significant efforts to identify people in the vulnerable category, in the non-violent category and we are doing that right now to do our best to help the jail,” Allred said.

Yet, members of the ACLU argue they have not been able to find out how many inmates, if any, have been released during the COVID-19 jail outbreak.

Moreno’s siblings hope they can get him released while awaiting trial so his health doesn’t go from bad to worse.

“When he gets sick, he gets really sick,” Elizabeth said.

Protesters plan another event for Saturday July 18th at the Ogden Police Department.