Update (4/3): The local media outlet that originally reported this story has amended their reporting to indicate that Burnett was released early as part of a mandatory re-entry program, not in response to coronavirus.
Inmates across the country who were released to protect prison populations from COVID-19 are already committing crimes in their local communities, including at least one former inmate who admitted to stabbing a man to death just four days after his release.
Jacob Burnett was released in Louisville, KY, two days into his two-year sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Four days after being released, he admitted to stabbing and killing a 60-year-old man in a subdivision just east of the city, according to local media.
Another Louisville inmate, Kenneth Walker, was released to “home incarceration” even though he was accused of shooting local officer John Mattingly on March 13th. Corrections FOP Spokesperson Tracy Dotson told the media that his lodge has denounced Walker’s release.
In New Jersey, Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden told Fox News that a recently released inmate has already been arrested for shoplifting and theft, according to Tap Into Middletown.
“This is an exploitation of a policy that certainly was pushed with an agenda,” Golden said. “None of the other jails were consulted before this went to the ‘show cause’ order. In one case we had a release on Tuesday, he was arrested for shoplifting and theft on Wednesday – so this is what’s happening here. It’s certainly a drain on our public safety resources.”
Municipalities across the country have announced the release of “nonviolent” inmates for fear that COVID-19 will spread rapidly in highly populated jails and prisons.
In LA County, Sheriff Alex Villanueva has released roughly 1,700 prisoners back onto the street.
“We’ve been doing quite a bit to minimize the impact of our custody population,” he said. “Our population within our jail is a vulnerable population just by virtue of who they are and where they’re located. So, we’re protecting that population from potential exposure.”
The mass exodus isn’t insolated to just a few cases. According to a report by the Walton Sun, law enforcement agencies across the country are cutting their inmates loose:
- In Cleveland, officials have released over 700 prisoners from the Cuyahoga County Jail in less than two weeks;
- Near Oakland, California, more than 250 have been released;
- In Nashville, Tennessee, up to 300 have been released;
- Across New Jersey, hundreds of prisoners were expected to exit county jails this week under an order issued by Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.
While some in the law enforcement community support the moves, others have voiced concern. New Jersey Sheriff Golden called the new policy “unacceptable” and “absurd”:
In Louisville, Former Jefferson County Judge Sandra McLaughlin called it a “get out of jail day” and encouraged residents to lock their doors:
Kentucky Judge Julie Kaelin, who presided over the release of 45 inmates in Louisville on Saturday, criticized the local media for presenting “this information in a misleading manner that needlessly stokes fear.”
She does not explain in her statement how the reporting was misleading.