Victims' Advocates Oppose Inmate Release Despite COVID-19

Right now, COVID-19 has a lot of people scared. It’s hard not to, especially for those of us living in hot spots with high fatality numbers per capita. Among the many people concerned are elected officials at all levels of the government. The problem for them is that anything they do or don’t do will be viewed under a microscope after all this is over.

Yet there are a few things one can look at now and know there’s no way this will work out favorably even without the benefit of hindsight. That includes things like letting dangerous criminals out of jail because of a virus.

In Alabama, victims’ advocates are lashing out over the move.

Advocates for victims of crime in Alabama responded Tuesday to calls for the compassionate release of at-risk state inmates amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, a group of concerned law students and alumni of the University of Alabama School of Law penned an open letter to Gov. Kay Ivey urging her to act immediately to ensure the safety of all inmates and staff in state prisons as confirmed COVID-19 cases skyrocket in the state.

Janette Grantham, state director of Victims of Crime and Leniency, said the group failed to consider another vulnerable group of citizens in need of safety and protection: victims of violent crime and their families. “Unfortunately, this lack of sympathy for victims and their families has become a popular trend in institutions of higher education across the country. It is quite telling that victims and victims’ advocates are rarely invited to speak on campus in addition to the public defenders and felons who are,’’ Grantham said. “This reveals a grievous lack of sympathy for those who have endured mental and physical trauma at the hands of convicted felons.”

“From their open letters and choices of keynote speakers, to their professor appointments and school organizations, it has become obvious that many law schools, including Alabama’s School of Law have little regard for victims of crime, the very ones who would be most affected by a broad release of prisoners,’’ Grantham said.

Grantham said there are other, less dangerous ways of halting the spread of COVID-19 in prisons and to refuse to acknowledge the plight of murder victims and their survivors is a dangerous form of denial.

Obviously, I’m with Grantham.

You see, the criteria the open letter proposed for release was based on things like age, disability, or pregnancy. What it didn’t look at one bit is the severity of the crime they committed.

Keep in mind that generally, state prisoners have been convicted. These aren’t people being held because we think they committed a crime, they’re people who have been convicted of doing so beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers.

Some of those the law students call for releasing are violent individuals who will likely commit violent acts yet again if given a chance.

Grantham suggests that the University of Alabama School of Law students aren’t exactly understanding of victims and their rights, instead siding with criminals. While I’m not sure that’s fair, that’s only because I suspect there are a lot of other students who are itching to prosecute people like this in their chosen profession. The students and alumni who penned the letter certainly don’t seem to care about these convicts’ victims.

Look, if we were talking non-violent offenders, that’s one thing. I might not be thrilled with it, but I can see the point. Release those non-violent offenders, then space out the violent ones as much as possible to mitigate the risk.

That’s not what’s on the table and the victims of those crimes deserve better.

Let’s just hope some of them are now gun owners and should these bad people be released and come a-calling, they get what they deserve for their efforts.

I wonder if the law students would find that result more humane or not.