The Investigators: Prisoners granted parole may not be released during COVID-19 pandemic

Attorney says their lives are in danger

The Investigators: Tennessee parolees not being released during COVID-19 emergency

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee prisoners who have been granted parole may not be able to go home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1,599 Tennessee inmates sitting in prison right now have been granted parole.

Nashville attorney David Raybin wants them to be released now.

“I think it’s inhuman to keep people in prison under this circumstance,” Raybin said. “These people have been vetted by the parole board, they’ve been in there a long time. They are going to get out eventually anyway so all I’m asking is accelerate this process in light of this emergency.”

Before an inmate can be released and report for parole, they must complete a pre-parole program while still in prison.

However, many classes are being held only at specific facilities or have been reduced to comply with social distancing.

“I’m not advocating they open the doors and let everybody out," said Raybin, who has been defending prisoners for decades. "These folks have already been granted parole and are waiting for a program that no longer exists.”

Raybin and the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers sent letters to the Tennessee Board of Parole and to Governor Bill Lee Friday asking that these inmates for their safety.

“The more people you have in a confined environment, the greater the chances are that there could be an epidemic in a prison,” said Raybin.

The Investigators reached out to the Tennessee Board of Parole, which said it has "already started to identify candidates who have been granted release but may not be able to complete their required pre-release conditions through no fault of their own.“

Governor Lee’s office did not provide a comment.

Raybin hopes the inmates won’t have to wait long.

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