I’ve said before that I understand the thinking that went into lawmakers releasing hordes of inmates from county jails and state prisons. I still do. They were in a tough spot and were going to catch hell for every death in a correctional facility if they didn’t at least try to do something.
The problem with such a plan, however, is that these people were locked up for a reason. They’re being punished and, some hope, reformed. Letting them out early because of a virus with a pretty low mortality rate doesn’t exactly whip them into pillars of society.
For example, one of the latest examples.
A former Washington state inmate who was released early because of the COVID-19 pandemic was re-arrested last weekend after a short high-speed chase and brief foot pursuit in Pierce County that followed alleged meth use by the man and a passenger in his vehicle, according to a police report and interviews with investigators.
Flaviano D. Basaliza, 43, of Bremerton, was taken into custody shortly before midnight Sunday morning by Gig Harbor police. He was charged with a felony count of eluding and misdemeanor charges of obstructing an officer and third-degree driving with a suspended license, according to the police report.
Because he was a non-violent offender during the weekend incident, however, he was allowed to bond out, police said.
The suspect and his friend who was with him at the time of the incident told investigators that Basaliza had just been released from prison because of the state’s effort to implement social distancing in order to deter the spread of coronavirus behind bars. Basaliza had been serving time after being convicted of possession of stolen vehicle.
Last week. Gov. Jay Inslee officially signed an order that allowed nearly 1,000 non-violent inmates to be released from prison early as part of that effort. The move sparked criticisms from some quarters over whether it was the right approach.
Inslee, in a statement to the station that reported this, defended his decision.
Which you’d expect.
Now, this guy isn’t exactly the Green River Killer or anything, but he was locked up for something. Then, he gets out and immediately poses a hazard to any number of innocent people.
No, he’s not accused of a violent crime, but let’s also be real here. More people are killed in auto accidents than by homicide every single year. That means Basaliza was putting people’s lives at risk. It’s not that he didn’t hurt anyone, it’s that it took a minor miracle not to hurt anyone. He could have killed people quite easily.
And this is the problem with releasing people from prison, even non-violent offenders. While it sounds good in principle, there are ramifications for such an act and those really needed to be considered in the first place. Are these individuals going to cause more problems than releasing them will solve?
Honestly, at this point, we don’t really know. What we do know is that Basaliza risked an untold number of lives and is already back on the streets again. Call it a hunch, but I doubt he learned his lesson.