There’s no doubt our prisons are overcrowded and prime breeding grounds for coronavirus. According to the Marshall Project, there have been more than 25,000 positive tests for the coronavirus in prisons across the country and 373 deaths.
Letting non-violent criminals out of prison early seemed a logical choice. A reduced prison population would make containing the coronavirus easier.
But just because someone is convicted of a “non-violent” crime doesn’t mean they’re non-violent criminals. In Colorado, this was sadly proven to be true.
A former inmate released from prison early on April 15 was arrested for the murder of a 21-year-old woman, Heather Perry. Cornelius Haney has a criminal record stretching back a decade but was cleared to be released four months early from completing his sentence.
The felon, whose criminal history stretches back more than a decade, was serving a seven-year sentence for robbery when he was freed in accordance with a state executive order designed to reduce the prison population during the public health crisis.
The order allowed some inmates to leave prison and enter what it called “special needs parole,” according to 9News-Denver.
It should be noted that “special needs parole” does not mean any kind of increased or enhanced supervision.
“When looking at special needs parole criteria, the Department of Corrections’ medical staff reviews offenders for risk factors related to COVID as documented by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),” the spokesman told the station.
“The clinical team reviews the inmate’s medical records to individually confirm the existence of conditions and their severity. The Department also reviews information related to their crime of incarceration and behavior inside the facility. Once the medical and parole team has made a recommendation, the packet is forwarded to the Parole Board for review.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis was in full CYA mode.
Gov. Jared Polis acknowledged Friday that Haney was released under an executive order he issued, but said the parole board could not have held Haney much longer.
“He would have had mandatory parole granted in August of this year,” Polis stated. “He has been up for parole since 2017.”
Did anyone bother to ask why Haney had been denied parole for three years? But it’s OK, says Polis, because he was going to be released anyway.
Polis said the parole board has a tough job.
“In making those decisions, they are taking into account the safety of prison guards and others, but no prisoner who is a danger to society should be released early in any situation,” Polis stated. “And of course, nobody on that parole board thought that this person was going to do what they allegedly did, but they couldn’t have held them much longer under the law.”
We’ll be sure to let Ms. Perry’s family know she was probably going to be murdered anyway, whether it happened now or four months from now. Somehow, I don’t think that would be very comforting to them.
“We are a mess, it’s just really hard,” Perry’s cousin, Ashley Thompson, said. “My whole family, they are pretty ripped apart. She was our baby.”
Perry was a mother of two. The young mom endured a tough life, but Thompson says she was resilient, smart and kind.
“The hardest thing could hit her, and she would get back up, more resilient each time and she would still do it with a smile, and she would still do it with a big spark in her eye,” Thompson said.
All those criminals’ lives saved and all of them put together aren’t worth as much as the one innocent life that was taken unnecessarily.