Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell says the release of some state prisoners because of the coronavirus could happen as early as next week.

Civil rights advocates have called on state officials to release some medically at-risk and nonviolent inmates to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.

Schnell said on Minnesota Public Radio that releasing some prisoners early is likely the best way to create more space, but that the safety of the public will be the biggest factor in deciding to release inmates early.

“So that we don’t have massive spread and so that we don’t ultimately have to bring people out of the prisons into the community health system that itself may become overburdened as this goes forward,” he said.

The Department of Corrections said there are certain disqualifying factors under state law, including court ordered in-custody treatment, out-of-state warrants, and sex offender programming.

Prisoners who could be released include nonviolent offenses, low risk to public safety and being within 90 days of regularly scheduled release.