I’ve noted several times in previous posts that I understand that elected officials are in a tough spot regarding inmates in jails and prisons during this pandemic. If they leave them where they are–overcrowded correctional facilities–then they’ll catch hell if the infection claims any significant number of lives.

For many, their hope is that the prisoners will be released but recognize that the lockdown orders are meant to prevent the spread of disease. That may or may not work on some of them, of course.

However, it now seems that inmates in Los Angeles County have figured out the secret to scoring an early release. Catch the disease.

Inmates in California jails purposefully tried to infect themselves with the coronavirus because they believed they could be released, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a news conference Monday that surveillance videos showed inmates in L.A. County jails trying to infect themselves by taking sips from the same bottle of hot water, “sniffing out of a common mask” and passing around a styrofoam cup to share.

“Now, they’re sharing the hot water from the dispenser in the same bottle,” he said at the news conference. “Right after this video was taken, a nurse came to take temperatures. With the hot water, they were trying to falsely elevate their temperature readings to generate the symptoms of COVID-19.”

Within a week of what was videotaped by surveillance cameras, 21 inmates tested positive for COVID-19, Villanueva said.

“It’s sad to think someone deliberately tried to expose themselves to COVID-19,” he said. “Somehow there was a mistaken belief among the inmate population that if they tested positive, there was a way to force our hand and somehow release more inmates out of the jail environment, and that’s not going to happen.”

However, just because Villaneuva isn’t releasing any more folks doesn’t mean it won’t work in other places. Hypothetically, anyway. Word will get around, I’m sure, and someone will try it somewhere else.

Of course, they then bring what happens next on themselves and I’m personally in favor of putting them on display so the public can point and laugh at them.

Yet let’s also remember that part of the drive behind it was the release of so many prisoners back onto the streets despite these individuals not having done their time. People like Villaneuva and others are directly responsible for the attitude that led to this. The good sheriff shouldn’t try to pretend otherwise, either.

What worries me is that someone, somewhere, may well have made this work somehow. Maybe it didn’t get themselves out of prison, but it may have let someone out who also happens to be a dangerous individual. We’ve already seen a few such people be released already, after all. Another round of releases may well create more problems than it would be intended to resolve.

Villanueva has said and done plenty I disagree with in recent weeks, but his decision to not release inmates who contract the disease is definitely the right one.