Police groups are pushing back on states and cities across the country that have decided to release jail inmates back onto the streets because of coronavirus fears.
“If you put convicted, but not yet rehabilitated criminals out on the streets where large swaths of the business world are shut down, you can expect an increase in property crimes from looting to robbery,” executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police James Pasco said, according to the Washington Times. “You run the risk of exacerbating the problem.”
Cuyahoga County in Ohio evaluated the release of hundreds of inmates last week, Los Angeles County began releasing inmates who had less than 30 days left to serve, and police in Philadelphia say they will delay arresting people for certain offenses. Moreover, prisoners were being released in Louisiana, New York City, Utah, and several other places in the U.S. as well.
“The idea of releasing individuals, who by definition are not safe to be among the public, in the name of improving public welfare is nonsensical,” executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations William Johnson said about the moves.
He went on to mention former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s policy of cracking down on small-time offenses rather than relaxing punishments, reported the Washington Examiner.
“New York City is a great example where you used to have the ‘broken windows’ model of policing where you went after the low-level stuff and improved the overall quality of life for the entire city,” he said.
“We’ve got to be thoughtful and not use broad brushes,” Houston police chief Art Acevedo said. “The last thing you want to do is release a large number of criminals onto our streets that have been not been assessed before they return to society.”
Acevedo, Johnson and Pasco are not alone in their analysis. Law officers everywhere know that releasing criminal opportunists during a time of crisis will likely lead to more victimization that would otherwise be avoided if the offenders remained in custody to fulfill their sentences.