Warning of a crisis in Massachusetts prisons and jails that could lead to unnecessary deaths, a coalition of legal aid and community groups pressed the Baker administration Tuesday to reduce incarceration levels and limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission among inmates and correctional officers.

Because of the high populations in many facilities, speakers at a Tuesday press conference said social-distancing practices and other public health protocols cannot properly be implemented in prisons and jails. About 22 percent of the state's incarcerated population that has been tested for COVID-19 has tested positive so far, according to Massachusetts Public Health Association Executive Director Carlene Pavlos.

The groups pointed to steps taken by at least 15 other governors to release varying numbers of inmates in their states and slammed Gov. Charlie Baker for what they described as an inadequate response.

"The need for decarceration, the release of prisoners is the only way to stem the public health emergency that's facing our prisoners, those that are incarcerated," said Rev. David Lewis, a board member of the Pioneer Valley Project. "Social distancing is impossible to do in prisons, and infections are spreading dangerously fast."

Advocates unveiled a 10-point plan Tuesday, including steps such as granting parole to qualifying individuals who are within six months of their parole date and using clemency powers to release medically vulnerable inmates.

Under a Supreme Judicial Court ruling issued in April, pre-trial detainees charged with non-violent crimes can seek release during the coronavirus outbreak. Supporters of decarceration have been pushing for more widespread release of inmates, arguing it would protect both the incarcerated and the correctional officers with whom they interact.