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Di Leo: Ten Percent and Counting – the Predictable Recidivism of COVID-19’s Ex-Cons

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By John F. Di Leo –

When much of this nation started embarking on unprecedented shutdowns in March – closing our factories, our stores, our restaurants and schools… evacuating our hospitals to make room for the millions of patients that were sure to flood them in a matter of days, as soon as the CCP Virus caught on – one of the oddest choices that some state governments made was to set their prisoners free.

The peculiar, misguided fear that criminals in jail might catch this virus prompted certain hard leftist governors – New York’s Cuomo, Washington’s Inslee, California’s Newsom, Illinois' Pritzker, and others – to throw open the prison gates. They flooded their own communities with these known, proven criminals, people in jail for committing crimes – not just minor transgressions, but the kind that actually result in years behind bars, even in these permissive, forgiving states. (Remember, when studying their rap sheets, that criminals are usually cataloged under lesser crimes than the ones they actually committed, due to plea bargaining).

Plenty of voices opposed the idea, of course, but Republicans are a muzzled minority in such states, and the local press usually serves as house organs for the state Democratic party, so few listened to these warnings.

Well, we are three months in, and we have data. Lots of data.

Just as any sane observer would expect, many of the convicts who were released early due to alleged COVID-19 fears immediately returned to the lifestyle that landed them in jail in the first place.  Many of the COVID-19 ex-cons have been caught committing crimes; who knows how many more did the same but haven’t been caught at it?

As just one example, in early June, NBC New York investigated the releases from Rikers alone – yes, that’s just one prison – where 2500 inmates were set free.  At least ten percent of them – that’s 250 criminals – have been rearrested at least once or twice each in the past three months, some even more often than that.

And why not?  With empty streets, a terrified public, and an increasingly nervous police force – officers threatened with dismissal, firing, lawsuits and rioting if they do their jobs – of course criminals see the community as easy pickings.

Not by accident have America’s cities been torn apart by riots in recent weeks. When left-wing extremist organizations put out the call – on Craigslist or other social media – that there’s going to be a demonstration, a lot more violent types are available to join the fun than ever before.   Oh, there may be some organizers who intended for these demonstrations to be peaceful (though the jury’s still out on that question, so to speak), but the PAC-and-NGO-funded rent-a-protester process used in so many of these cities leads one to assume the opposite.

Even far from the farmlands, deep in our densest cities, they must know the old proverb, “as you sow, so shall you reap.”  Infest the cities with thousands of known, convicted criminals over the spring – muggers and robbers, drug dealers, gang members, brawlers – and what else could we have expected by summer? 

How many crimes have been committed in recent months that didn’t have to happen at all, because the perpetrators were supposed to be safely behind bars?  How many violent demonstrations might have remained peaceful rather than turning into war zones, because the thugs, arsonists and looters who escalated those protests should never have been on the streets at all?

Think of the victims.  How many robberies, rapes and other attacks – from property crimes to sex crimes to other violent assaults – would never have happened if only these fool governors had done their job and viewed the safety of the law-abiding public as their primary obligation?

How many women’s lives have been ruined by rape, how many employees are unemployed, how many entrepreneurs’ life savings have been wiped out, by these weeks of riots?  How many downtowns are burned to the ground, how many neighborhoods have been permanently destroyed? 

How many employers will finally learn their lesson, and have the sense to shut their doors and move to another state, never to return, now that they finally realize that their governments had no interest at all in protecting them?

We have government for many reasons.  To coin money, to defend our borders, to build roads, to manage the sewer systems.  Over the past century, we have allowed all levels of government to pole-vault past their original constitutional boundaries, and government now runs schools and park districts, power authorities and soup kitchens, employment agencies and housing developments, colleges and research pavilions.

With all these things they do, we can’t expect them to manage all of them well, can we?  No “jack of all trades” can be a master of them all, too.   It’s an unfair expectation.

For generations, we have shouted again and again: “If government tries to do everything under the sun, it will be unable to devote the necessary resources to its fundamental obligations.”  But a century of warnings from the Right have fallen on deaf ears

Sure enough, despite ever-skyrocketing taxes, the roads are full of potholes, the foreign gangs flow through our porous borders, and our overwhelmed criminal justice system cannot keep our streets safe.

For far too long, we have spoken of a “revolving door” in the criminal justice system.  Thousands of policemen risk their lives every day to catch the perpetrators; court systems chew up billions of dollars determining guilt or innocence; jails and prisons are built to house the guilty… and even after all this, politicians set them free, to return to the streets and commit more crimes.  Why?

One can only ask, What on earth is all that sacrifice for – so much sacrifice by policemen, courts, wardens and taxpayers, all thwarted by one group – the politicians of the modern Left – who feel so much compassion for the robbers, rapists, and brawlers, that they have no compassion left for anyone else.  Why?

Incidentally, and we hate to have to say it, but… don’t think this is anything new. 

The modern American Left has been calling for the emptying of prisons for decades, for all sorts of reasons, whatever they could think of at the time.  Not enough space, not enough beds, not enough money, not enough recreational programs. At the slightest provocation, there has always been a call, from Sacramento to Albany, to set a few hundred of them free.  Or a few thousand of them.  Or maybe all of them, that would be nice too… in the deranged minds of the modern Left.

There was a time, long ago, when the police and the courts released criminals “into the care of their families.”  The judge or policeman would look the parents in the eye, and say “you’re responsible for him now; make sure he sobers up… or straightens out… and behaves.”  You can still see a brief flash of those days on reruns of the television shows of old. Sheriff Andy would hand the boy over to his Dad with a somber look, and both the boy and his father knew what society expected of them.

Fiction?  Yes, but the Andy Griffith Show was based on the real world of rural America – a country where republican ethics still ruled, a country where, if someone gave you a break, you appreciated it, and straightened yourself out as a result. It didn’t take more than one such lesson.

Today, criminals are given such breaks without any such expectations.  We don’t say “Be grateful we’re letting you go; now’s your chance to become a model citizen.” No, we just set them free and drop them back in the neighborhood that steered them wrong the first time, the gang-infested streets where their old crowd will welcome them back to the drug-and-convenience-store trade with open arms.

Can we even be surprised that they behave so badly, when they can so easily see that their victims mean nothing to their government?  If the mayor, city council and governor cared at all about the girl, they wouldn’t have set her rapist free.  If they cared about that grocery store, they wouldn’t have released the burglar who robbed it.  If they cared about the businesses and landlords and residents in that neighborhood at all, they wouldn’t be polluting that neighborhood with known criminals, would they?

When they write the history books of 2020, people will blame “COVID-19” for these crimes, just as they blame the virus for everything else this year.  But it’s not really COVID-19 at all.

The government didn’t have to release these criminals.  It chose to.  On purpose. Deliberately.  Because some politicians care more about the comfort of proven criminals then they care about the life, health, and property of the law-abiding citizens who make up their constituency.

Remember, viruses are indiscriminate.  A virus doesn’t know who it’s infecting.

 Anyone – anyone at all – can catch an infectious illness, whether it’s just a regular flu season or a global pandemic, no matter where they are – at home or work, at school or jail.

And, like anyone else, if a criminal gets sick while sitting in jail, that’s a pity.

But if that criminal robs, rapes, injures or kills someone – because he’s supposed to be in jail but he’s  not­… because some governor purposefully sent him out into the streets to terrorize the public… then that’s not a pity.

That’s a crime.

Copyright 2020 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based international trade professional, writer and actor.  His columns have run in Illinois Review since 2009.

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