It was only weeks ago that we read that prisons and jails would be releasing inmates in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus amongst their populations.
What could possibly go wrong? Right?
Earlier this month, a convicted pedophile rapist was released from a Massachusetts prison in order to protect him from the coronavirus because of existing health conditions that put him at risk.
But on March 19, over a hundred low-risk inmates were released from Hillsborough County jail in Florida in order to protect them from the coronavirus. Twenty-six-year-old Joseph Williams, who had been booked on multiple drug charges days earlier, was among those released. He was arrested on murder charges the day after his release.
He has now been charged with second-degree murder, resisting an officer with violence, felony possession of a firearm, possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia.
“There is no question Joseph Williams took advantage of this health emergency to commit crimes while he was out of jail awaiting resolution of a low-level, non-violent offense,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister in a statement. “As a result, I call on the State Attorney to prosecute this defendant to the fullest extent of the law. Every murder, every violent crime, especially those involving a gun, is a sickening example of the worst in our community, especially at a time when our community is working relentlessly to fight against the spread of this deadly COVID-19.”
“Judges, prosecutors, and sheriffs around the country are facing difficult decisions during this health crisis with respect to balancing public health and public safety,” Chronister continued. “Sheriffs in Florida and throughout our country have released non-violent, low-level offenders to protect our deputies and the jail population from an outbreak. Our commitment as an agency is to keep this community safe and enforce the law.”
According to a local news station, Williams “was previously convicted of two felony offenses including burglary of an unoccupied conveyance in 2012 and felon in possession of a firearm in 2018, in addition to five misdemeanor convictions.” He’s been arrested on 35 charges throughout his criminal history.
At 26-years-old, Williams was at low risk for the coronavirus, but based on his criminal history, he was at high risk to the public by being released. Where was the concern for the public when the decision was made to release him? How many other potentially violent re-offenders were released? The coronavirus, as serious as it is, is asymptomatic in most cases and has a low risk for people under 50 years of age. Even if you can argue its safer for some inmates to be released, is it really safer for the public? Clearly, in this case it wasn’t, and who knows how many more cases there are like this one?
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