Seemingly perplexed by an utterly foreseeable turn of events on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that it was “unconscionable” that inmates he endorsed releasing from Riker’s Island Prison in the wake of the coronavirus…were out there using their newfound freedom to commit new crimes. While he attempted to downplay the percentage of released felons going back to their old ways, de Blasio did acknowledge to reporters that there was some of that going on.
“We do see some recidivism,” he admitted. “I have not seen a huge amount, but any amount is obviously troubling. We’re going to just keep buckling down on it, making sure there’s close monitoring and supervision to the maximum step possible. And the NYPD is going to keep doing what they’re doing.”
“I think it’s unconscionable just on a human level that folks were shown mercy and this is what some of them have done,” the mayor said.
Yeah, if only there were lessons to be gleaned from this.
According to a recent report from The New York Post, approximately 50 of the 1,500 inmates released over fears of a coronavirus outbreak have been re-arrested for new crimes. But so eager is New York City leadership in preventing the spread of the disease behind bars, some of those re-arrested felons have already been released AGAIN.
The Post reported:
The re-offenders — just over 3 percent of those released — include a Rikers Island inmate initially jailed for allegedly setting his girlfriend’s door on fire and choking her mother, who was released early only to return to the Bronx apartment and allegedly threaten to kill the whole family.
Another prisoner who is accused of assaulting a Department of Homeless services officer and was later set free was arrested for punching an agency sergeant just two days after his release, records show.
Yet another, who was serving a 60-day sentence for theft, was charged with burglarizing Queens’ Singh Farm grocery store to the tune of more than $9,000 three weeks after his early release.
It’s obviously unwise, for a variety of reasons, to ignore the very real dangers of letting the coronavirus spread freely throughout our prison system. Not only does this endanger the felons themselves – many of whom are there for offenses that are non-violent in nature – but it puts the guards and prison staff in grave danger. It also increases the chances of a prison revolt, which is the last thing you want.
On the other hand, we have to do these releases with a high degree of caution. It can’t just be, “Oh, everyone over the age of ___” goes free. It can’t just be, “Oh, everyone with a non-violent offense gets out now.” This should be systematic, individualized, and careful. It is the height of irresponsibility to put the public in danger because you can’t figure out what to do with your prisoners.