Prisons are, for the most part, a fairly closed system. People come in and stay there for months or years at a time. Further, they’re in fairly cramped conditions that are downright miserable. To be fair, that’s a feature, not a bug. It’s a prison, not a vacation.
However, that kind of environment is not a great place to keep a deadly virus at bay.
Considering the pressure many officials were under, it’s not surprising that they opted to release some inmates back into the wild. The problem is, there are some who have been released due to COVID-19 that may not have any business on our streets.
However, those are far from isolated. Take this instance out of Texas.
A woman who was let out of the Bexar County Jail during a wave of releases late last month — despite the violent nature of her charge — is once again a wanted fugitive, law enforcement officials confirmed to KSAT this week.
Deborah Castoreno, 35, was released from jail March 27 after securing personal recognizance bonds in the October 2019 aggravated assault with a deadly weapon case and in three misdemeanor cases against her.
The judge told KSAT that the sweeping COVID-19 pandemic played a role in his decision to approve the bond and was not simply a situation where the defendant had been held for 90 days without the case proceeding to court or a grand jury.
“Accused of a serious crime? Absolutely. But not convicted,” said O’Connell on the telephone Tuesday.
Court records show Castoreno has had 13 criminal cases in Bexar County since April 2016 on charges ranging from felony drug possession to family violence and a previous aggravated assault.
As part of her release in this baseball-bat aggravated assault case, O’Connell said he ordered Castoreno to have GPS monitoring while on full house arrest.
This is someone who reportedly hit another woman in the face with a baseball bat.
And now she’s on the streets and, apparently, on the run.
Don’t get me wrong, she has a right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty, but the judge admits that COVID-19 concerns led to him releasing her, meaning her release wouldn’t necessarily have happened otherwise.
Yet Castoreno isn’t the only person accused of a heinous crime who was released because of the virus. We also have an accused murderer in Michigan.
A man accused of shooting an unarmed man to death at a Roseville bar bathroom is out now on bond because of COVID-19 concerns in the jail.
Nolan Baca, 21, is awaiting an August trial for second-degree murder after the death of 37-year-old Johnny Owczarski at Dooley’s Irish Tavern back in October 2019. Originally, the judge set no bond but later dropped it to a half a million. And then the coronavirus hit.
“After they started getting the Covid with at least four inmates and two sheriff employees, the judge agreed to reduced to $125,000 cash surety with a GPS tether,” said Baca’s attorney, Scott Weingerg.
However, as we’ve seen with Castoreno, that’s no guarantee that Baca will wait around.
This is an accused murderer who was denied bond but is now no more locked up than pretty much anyone else in Michigan.
Again, people are innocent until proven guilty, but I also think that if we’re going to release people from jails, it should be those might not represent a threat to the general public. People who allegedly hit folks in the face with baseball bats and who allegedly shoot unarmed men in the john probably shouldn’t be prime candidates for that kind of treatment.
The fact that they are suggests that no one knew what the hell they were doing and were just trying to clear out people with little regard for what they might or might not have done.