City officials lashed out Thursday night at a Riverside County program that results in the release of prisoners to a Palm Springs hotel for the purposes of quarantining from COVID after serving sentences in Banning.
“We have a very large number of extremely angry residents and merchants and we have now learned they have reason to be angry,” said Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton after Police Chief Bryan Reyes spoke to the Council about information that came to his attention earlier in the week. “This is a program that we will have to take every effort to reform and correct and this can’t happen again.”
During the Council’s regular meeting Thursday evening, Reyes revealed his officers had been in contact this past week with a number of homeless individuals new to the city who said they were transported here to stay in a local hotel after being released from jail in Banning. Most had been arrested for crimes in the western part of the county. He said at least one had been re-arrested in the city for parole violation.
“We’ve learned that there is a program by the Department of Infectious Diseases that is running in our city in which 25-30 subjects from throughout the county are housed in a hotel 6-10 days,” the chief explained. “All of them are in our city for the purposes of being quarantined for COVID.”
If not for officers interacting with the individuals and speaking with staff at the hotel, no city officials would be aware of the county program.
“It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves working backwards” by contacting staff at hotels, Reyes said. “I think the time is now more than ever for an important meeting with the board of supervisors responsible for our area.”
The Council was unanimous in agreement, calling on staff to reach out immediately to Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor Manuel Perez and others in county government for information. An update is expected at the next Council meeting in March.
“Obviously this is incredibly disturbing,” said Councilmember Geoff Kors. “Given how much we’ve done, … for this to happen with no notification is really outrageous. That you’re learning this from the individuals and not the county or the public health department is really troubling.”