The idea of releasing potentially dangerous people from jail because of fears over a virus is bound to be a touchy subject. On one hand, I get the position officials are in on this. If people die in prison because it’s impossible to maintain social distancing or anything else, there will likely be hell to pay.
Now, a federal judge has jumped into the stupid by ordering the release of an accused drug dealer.
A federal judge on Wednesday granted the emergency release of a 50-year-old Baltimore man who was arrested last month on gun and drug charges, according to court documents.Derrick Boone first appeared in court on March 12, and a detention hearing was held four days later. At the hearing his lawyers argued that he should be released pending trial because of a pre-existing medical condition that put him at risk for contracting COVID-19, the deadly disease caused by the new coronavirus.Boone suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, court documents say.A federal judge denied his request at the time, agreeing with prosecutors that he “poses a risk to the safety of other persons in the community.” The court did invite Boone to file a motion for reconsideration.At the time, there were no reported positive cases of COVID-19 in the state’s jails and prisons, court documents say.But on Wednesday prosecutors and defense attorneys reached an agreement to release him to the custody of his mother, with conditions sharply curtailing his movement. He also must check in regularly with court officials.…Boone was indicted on eight charges last month stemming from a Dec. 19, 2019, incident, including possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, possession with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, and possession of firearm by a prohibited person, according to court documents.
Now, it’s good that it’s not just an outright release or anything, but still, this is someone who was previously considered a risk to the public. Enough so that he wasn’t to be released.
Then, all that changed and he’s perfectly safe on the streets again.
Oh, I know there’s a due process argument to be made. He hasn’t been convicted and he’s innocent until proven guilty and all that. Yet that wasn’t a concern a month ago when he was locked up. It wasn’t when the judge denied the earlier motion for him to be released.
The difference is that now, COVID-19 is in the Maryland prison system and having a grand old time, apparently. Because Boone suffers from asthma, he is at risk. I get that. As the father of an asthmatic son, believe me, I get it.
But on the same token, if he’s a danger to the public as a whole, can we really trust that he’ll stay with his mother and be a good boy? I mean, he seems to have failed in that matter spectacularly at that so far in his 50 years of life.
We’ll have to hope this one doesn’t come back to bite officials in the posterior when it’s all said and done.