A jail reform organization is blaming inaction by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva for the first confirmed COVID-19 death of an inmate in the county’s jail system.

“Condolences, thoughts and prayers are not enough. One of our incarcerated brothers died from COVID-19 while Los Angeles is protesting brutality by law enforcement,” Patrisse Cullors, chair of Reform LA Jails, said in a statement. “Tonight, we mourn alongside the friends and family and loved ones of an Angeleno lost too soon. We are seeing the consequences of Sheriff Villanueva’s inaction. This is what we mean when we say: This is life or death.”

“Sheriff Villanueva has been a strong believer of herd immunity, and this irresponsible tactic just took a life,” the statement continued. “Sadly, more people will die if no other changes are made. We know there are likely other COVID related deaths in jail that have not been reported … Universal testing is just the beginning. The conditions of Los Angeles County jails will only lead to more suffering, disease, and death. Sheriff Villanueva must drastically reduce the jail population.”

On Monday, Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County’s public health director, confirmed the county’s first known case of a jail inmate dying due to the virus. The inmate’s name has not been released.

Los Angeles County and other jurisdictions in Southern California have granted many inmates early release due to the pandemic, but officials have said those inmates have been incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, with many approaching the end of their sentences.

A spokesperson at the Sheriff’s Information Bureau had no additional information about the inmate mentioned by Ferrer.

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