How do you empty a large county’s jail system by half?
That’s a question currently demanding an answer, as a West Coast judge has ordered that very thing.
As reported by The Daily Wire, on Friday, Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson dictated Sheriff Don Barnes must liquidate Orange County’s jail system by 50%.
The decision comes following the American Civil Liberties Union’s April lawsuit demanding the release of disabled and vulnerable inmates in light of the pandemic.
Per The LA Times, Peter ruled Don had violated the California constitution — yes, they have one.
And it protects particularly susceptible prisoners, according to the judge.
Don had, it was determined, shown “deliberate indifference” to those compromised beneath the threat.
From the ruling:
The uncontested facts found here include that conditions in the jail do not permit proper social distancing, there is no mandatory testing of staff or asymptomatic detainees after intake, and no strictly enforced policy of requiring masks for all staff interaction with inmates.
Now it seems the state’s third largest county’s in quite the pickle.
As indicated by the sheriff on Twitter, the order effectively demands a release of 1,800 inmates.
And they’re not all great people:
“Many of these inmates are in pre-trial status for, or have been convicted of, violent crimes and will be released back into the community.”
Please see my statement below following an order from the court mandating the release of more than 1,800 inmates from the Orange County Jail. pic.twitter.com/Y6PuIKVlPr
— OC Sheriff Don Barnes (@OCSheriffBarnes) December 12, 2020
It seems Don suspects Peter didn’t think it through:
“This order puts our community at substantial risk and does not take into account the impact on the victims of these crimes.”
What could go wrong?
A similar program in Oakland worked out well. Like a fart just before the preacher says you’re dismissed, prisoners were let go early.
One convict — 32-year-old Rocky Music — allegedly committed a carjacking 37 minutes after getting out. He attempted a second one.
Sunday 750a, Rocky Music, arrested in a stolen car by @oaklandpoliceca. Released on court order zero bail at 723p. 37 mins later he walked to Dublin @SFBART and carjacked victim. Then drove to San Ramon and attempted second carjacking. He ran and was caught by @DublinCAPolice K9. pic.twitter.com/VTQcGZprpo
— Alameda County Sheriff (@ACSOSheriffs) April 20, 2020
So the good news is that some of the released fish will be jumping back into the boat.
The bad news: Boat’s full.
Maybe some of ’em can stay at Peter’s house.
As for Don, this ain’t his first brush with depopulation.
From the Wire:
Before the pandemic began, Orange County’s jail system was the second-largest in California. However, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department told The Daily Wire that she could not confirm whether that is still the case. Sheriff Barnes reduced the jail population by about 45% last spring and was instructed by a court to release even more detainees, including some sex offenders. According to the agency, the average daily jail population count declined to 2,826 on May 11 at the height of the active COVID-19 cases in its system. That number has steadily increased to 3,628, far below its capacity of 6,159.
Of Orange County’s 691 inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, none have died, and only three have been admitted to hospitals for treatment, recent data provided by the department indicates.
Nevertheless, the ACLU sees the new move as a real victory:
Daisy Ramirez, jails conditions and policy coordinator at the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement that “this victory belongs to the incarcerated people who had the courage to speak out about Sheriff Barnes’s failed response to COVID-19.”
Maybe Daisy can put up a few of the nearly-2,000 as well.