Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department speaks out against state’s early release of inmates

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STANISLAUS COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) – The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department is speaking out against the state’s early release of inmates because of the pandemic after arresting a man for homicide this week who was granted early release this summer.

Alex Valenzuela is now behind bars at the Stanislaus County Jail, after being arrested Wednesday at his home on Angle Lane in Modesto.  

Valenzuela is accused of shooting 46-year-old Joseph Rivera on Bystrum Road, just before 11 p.m. Sunday. 

Rivera later died at the hospital. 

“He should have still been in custody,” said Sgt. Luke Schwartz, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s public information officer.

Schwartz says if Valenzuela had still been in custody, Rivera would be alive.

“It’s unfortunate that somebody lost their life as a result of that early release,” Schwartz said.

The Stanislas County Sheriff’s Department said the state’s early release of inmates and zero-bail policy because of the pandemic is putting communities in danger.

“They’re going to fall back into their old patterns, their old ways, once they start associating with the people that got them into trouble in the first place,” Schwartz explained.

Valenzuela was previously sentenced to serve 32-months in state prison for being a convicted felon in possession of a gun and was scheduled for release on December 13. 

“Ideally, we want to see justice served and have people that commit these types of violent crimes are held accountable for their actions,” Schwartz told FOX40.

Valenzuela was let out early on July 27 because of coronavirus concerns only to be arrested not once, but twice. This time, for homicide.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Schwartz said.

Jails and prisons have been COVID-19 hot spots.

The Stanislaus County Jail is dealing with a growing outbreak that’s seen 75 inmates and 24 staff members test positive for COVID-19.  

“We are proud of our track record, and the fact that we have the ability to isolate, mitigate and to quarantine those that could potentially spread the virus,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said that while the virus is a concern, the state needs to be smarter about deciding who is eligible for early release.

“It’s our hope that when you’re talking about violent felons, especially violent felons that like to possess firearms, and it can harm other people,” Schwartz said. “We believe that they belong in county jail or state prison.”

Deputies are still investigating the homicide. 

If you have any information about the case you’re asked to call the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department Crime Stoppers. 

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