COVID-19 has been the impetus of a lot of weird things happening. Among those weird things is the push by some areas to release inmates from incarceration out of concerns over the disease. People who are locked up and anticipating being there for years are finding themselves released sometimes just days after their sentence.
However, that particular brand of strange comes with a risk. After all, these are criminals. While not all criminals are violent sociopaths who will immediately go on a three-state murder spree, they’re not all one-time offenders who want nothing more than to walk the straight and narrow, either.
In Missouri, the attorney general has concerns about some recently released inmates.
A man who fired a shot at a cab driver during a robbery.
A man accused of assaulting a woman who said her child accused him of sexual abuse.
A man who robbed a restaurant and pointed a gun at an employee.
A man who shot another man.
A man who left the scene of a fatal accident.
These are the types of inmates who Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said have been released from the St. Louis jail in an effort to reduce the population due to coronavirus outbreak concerns.
And, their victims were not notified of their release, according to a letter Schmitt sent to Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner Tuesday.
In the letter, Schmitt writes that he is charged with enforcing the state’s Sunshine law and finds Gardner refusal to make the identities of the released inmates public “particularly troubling.”
“I am deeply concerned by public reports that persons charged with violent felonies are being released into our communities out of concerns relating to COVID-19, without any public transparency,” he wrote.
Gardner responded with a letter of her own, and said there were no complaints about her violating the state’s public records law and accused Schmitt of repeating inaccuracies contained in local media reports on the issue as well as playing politics.
There may well be some partisanship at work here since Schmitt is a Republican and Gardner is a Democrat.
However, I’d also say that Schmitt is right to be concerned. If these are the kind of people being released early, that means violent criminals have been put back into society before they’d finished their sentence.
Sure, with the coronavirus keeping everyone inside for the time being, overall crime is down, but the virus won’t last forever. At some point, the plague will pass and these people will still be on the streets.
And don’t try to say nothing will happen. We already know better, don’t we? At least one person is already dead at the hands of someone released from prison amid COVID-19 fears. There’s no reason to believe that to be an isolated case, either.
If Garner released violent felons over a virus and failed to notify people as required by law, then we have a problem. Frankly, we have a problem if violent criminals were released at all.
Let’s just hope that they’re more concerned about the virus than they were about being arrested. At least then, there’s a chance they’ll just stay home instead of some of the alternatives.