The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Tuesday that it would expedite the transition to parole for up to 3,500 nonviolent inmates.

The early release is to be granted over the next 60 days to increase space in the facilities to help aid social distancing.

CDCR’s plan includes expediting the transition to parole for eligible inmates who have 60 days or less to serve on their sentences and are not currently serving time for a violent crime as defined by law, a sex offense, or domestic violence. The plan also includes making more use of the state’s private and public Community Correctional Facilities, as well maximizing open spaces in the prisons, such as gymnasiums, to increase capacity and inmate movement options.

“We do not take these new measures lightly. Our first commitment at CDCR is ensuring safety – of our staff, of the incarcerated population, of others inside our institutions, and of the community at large,” said CDCR Secretary Ralph Diaz. “However, in the face of a global pandemic, we must consider the risk of COVID-19 infection as a grave threat to safety, too.”

So far, 22 employees and four prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19.

CDCR estimates that up to 3,500 incarcerated persons would be eligible for an expedited transition to parole. The department is preparing on-site multidisciplinary teams at each institution to expedite the pre-release coordination. CDCR will also immediately expand space in community-based parolee programs, particularly for those at risk of homelessness or housing instability, according to a news release.