Prison inmates have been caught on camera trying to infect themselves with the coronavirus in the hope it would secure early release.
Two groups of inmates being held in a unit at the Los Angeles County jail in California, USA were seen on camera sharing water bottles and a face mask and some making coughing gestures towards each other.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva, this behaviour resulted in almost half of the inmates in the unit later testing positive for the virus.
“Somehow there was some mistaken belief among the inmate population that if they tested positive there was some way that it would force our hands and release inmates,” said the sheriff.
“That is not going to happen.”
He said no one had admitted trying to spread the virus but that “their behaviour convicted them”. He said inmates usually “jealously guard” their own drinking mugs for fear of contracting an illness.
More than 5,000 inmates have been released during the coronavirus crisis in the LA area of California. To qualify, inmates must be within 60 days of their scheduled release.
An investigation into the attempt to spread the virus is now being carried out and inmates could face criminal charges.
The sheriff said it was “deeply disturbing” that they would imperil themselves, other inmates and staff.
“There’s a reason why they’re behind bars in the first place, because they violate the norms of society.”
When the sheriff’s department was trying to pinpoint what triggered the increase in positive tests, Bruce Chase, the department’s assistant sheriff of custody operations, told the Associated Press that authorities first looked to video footage for any clues. Officials wanted to see if the inmates were taking social distancing seriously or if they were wearing their masks.
“Lo and behold, we stumbled across footage that was very troubling to us,” Chase said to the AP.