Breathing from the same mask or sharing a disposable cup, a group of inmates in Los Angeles County deliberately sought to become infected with COVID-19 in an attempt to force their freedom, a senior police official said Monday.

“There was a mistaken belief among the inmate population that if they tested positive, we would somehow be forced to release more inmates from our prison environment, and that’s not going to happen,” said Sheriff Alex Villanueva at a press conference, because, according to the officer, 5,000 inmates were released as part of the plan to contain the virus in the prison system, leaving the prison population at 11,700 inmates out of 17,000, the largest in the country.

He cited security camera footage taken in mid-April from two modules at the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic, 40 miles north of downtown L.A.

A first video showed an inmate handing out sips of hot water to a group of inmates lined up to see the nurse.

They were trying to falsely raise their temperature readings to pretend to have one of the symptoms, Villanueva said.

A second video shows the prisoners sharing a single disposable cup and breathing in shifts inside the same mask, which is not known to have belonged to someone who was infected.

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