In a time when tensions are high, and everyone just needs to take things down a few notches, you would expect police departments nationwide to be doing everything possible to ensure the public’s sense of safety, whether it’s coronavirus related or not.
However, it seems that not all law enforcement groups are all that concerned, at least for the public. But when it comes to themselves, they are more than willing to make a few changes.
Take Cuyahoga County, Ohio, for example. Cuyahoga is the second-most populous county in the state and home to its second-largest city, Cleveland. Here, it was announced that the county jail would be releasing hundreds of inmates back into the public to limit their chances of getting the virus inside the jail and having it spread quickly.
However, not a single one of the 1,970 inmates tested positive for COVID-19.
Apparently, local judges felt that if the virus were contracted inside the jail, it would spread like wildfire in a population that is already known to be vulnerable.
WJW-TV reported, “Judges held a special Saturday morning session to settle cases with guilty pleas, release inmates, send them to prison or release them on house arrest.”
Basically, the idea was to empty the jail of as many inmates as possible. Those that pleaded guilty were sent to prison, and those with charges of lesser and non-violent crimes were to possibly be released.
And according to CNN, Cuyahoga County released more than 200 inmates.
Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan told the press that many inmates are already in poor health due to their lifestyles, which only increases their chances of contracting the virus and then allowing it to be spread throughout the jail.
Sheehan added, “You gotta remember, the goal of this is to protect the community and the safety of the inmates. If someone’s a serious violent person, well, we’re going to use our discretion to make sure the community’s safe also.”
In addition, Sheehan mentioned trying to make room within the existing jail for a quarantine area. He said, “We are trying to make as much room as possible, so when this virus hits our jail, the jail can deal with these people, quarantine them and deal with it instead of letting them sit there and infect the whole entire jail.”
But Cuyahoga County isn’t alone.
Los Angeles has also reported that they will be releasing some prisoners due to similar fears. L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said, “Our population within our jails is a vulnerable population just by who they are, where they are located, so we’re protecting that population from potential exposure.”
In addition, the Californian metropolis has also said they will be making fewer arrests in the upcoming weeks to keep their jails as unpopulated as possible.
Others, such as Philadelphia, have also announced this. On Tuesday, the Fraternal Order of Police in Philadelphia said they would not be arresting people for petty or non-violent crimes, including prostitution, vandalism, narcotics sales or use, theft, burglary, car theft, outstanding bench warrants, or economic fraud.
Philadelphia Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said charges along these lines would be ignored unless an officer felt the criminals involved were dangerous to themselves or others. In such cases, the officer could then report them to their supervisor.
The official statement also noted instructions that officers maintain a safe “social distance” in their duties, both while dealing with their co-workers and the public.
FOP president of Lodge 5 John McNesby says, “The directive was released to keep officers safe during this public-health crisis. Meanwhile, violent offenders will be arrested and processed with the guidance of a police supervisor.”
Now, I completely understand wanting to keep your officers and any inmates safe during this chaotic time. However, I’m not sure that lowering arrests and releasing prisoners does anything to really help.
Journalist Noah Rothman seems to agree. He tweeted, “At a time when people are feeling very insecure, this seems like an incredibly bad idea.”
Indeed, it does.
But it seems this might be more a leftist agenda issue than a public safety one. And Representative Ayanna Pressley, who has always pushed for “criminal justice reforms” that undo the jail and prison systems, is proving just that.
Already, she has appeared on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show to declare that prisoners need to be released in the wake of the spreading virus.
Not that the rest of America will agree with her.