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A file photo of Lancaster County Prison on Jan. 16, 2019.

Lancaster County Prison has released dozens of inmates since last week, a prison official said Thursday.

Major William Aberts said the prison is looking to safely reduce its population in order to mitigate the risk to inmates and staff should COVID-19 make it inside the facility. The move follows similar attempts at prison population reduction throughout the state and country.

The population as of Thursday was 692.

Since last week, 182 inmates have been released, Aberts said, though some of those are previously-scheduled releases.

Inmates who are over 55, at a health risk, within 60-days of their release or with low-bail amounts are being identified for early, supervised release, Aberts said. No inmates charged with violent crimes are being considered for early release.

In a statement to LNP|LancasterOnline, District Attorney Heather Adams said her office is reviewing inmates identified by the prison as candidates for early release and offers input and objections.

“After review of the lists we have been provided so far, we did not object to early release for approximately 26 inmates,” Adams said.

Aberts said one inmate was suspected of having contracted the novel coronavirus, but test results received earlier this week were negative. The inmate is being held in a 14-day quarantine.

Advocates for inmates’ rights have pressed local and state government officials to release at-risk inmates.

“I very much agree that if people don't need to be in prison that they should be sending them home,”  said Jean Bickmire, president of Have a Heart, a local inmate advocacy group. “The population has gone down so I think they are working toward that goal."

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