SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A state appeals court ordered San Quentin State Prison to immediately cut its inmate population by half Tuesday, which would require transferring or releasing about 1,700 inmates, citing the state’s inability to manage a deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the prison.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and San Quentin Prison Acting Warden Ron Broomfield “have acted with deliberate indifference and relief is warranted,” the court opinion stated.

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The ruling stemmed from a case involving 64-year-old Ivan Von Staich, who along with his 65-year-old cellmate, tested positive for the virus in July. Lawyers for Von Staich, who was convicted of murder in Southern California in 1983 and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, argued he had not had any disciplinary incidents since 1998 and the state parole board was likely to grant him release.

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In August, the same appeals court ordered CDCR to justify its refusal to remove inmates with heightened COVID-19 risk factors from the 150-year-old prison.

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