COVID Conundrum: Released Inmates Reoffend


The past year has seen a spike in crime for Houston and many other major cities across the country. The pandemic lockdowns and subsequent economic hardships are commonly cited in the crime numbers, but another factor from the pandemic also looms large. Thousands of "non-violent" inmates were released last year under emergency orders to prevent overcrowding and COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons.

Perhaps letting criminal out of jail wasn't the best idea, after all. A new study out of Hawaii that tracked more than 100 prisoners released there last spring under pandemic orders, found that 58% reoffended after getting out. Former FBI Deputy Assistant Director Danny Coulson says this could have been predicted. "They're criminals, they commit crimes, and when they're in jail they don't commit crimes except against each other, and when you let them out they commit crimes again," he tells KTRH. "You don't need a study, it's just common sense that if you let criminals out of jail, they're going to find victims, and they're going to go after victims and commit crimes."

However, Coulson believes pandemic prison releases are only part of the equation when it comes to the rising crime rate. He also blames the failure by some leaders to crack down on the violent riots that swept across American cities last summer, in which many rioters were either never charged or released on little or no bail. "When you don't have a criminal justice system where people are held accountable within the framework of the Constitution, you're going to have serious crime," says Coulson. "And right now, it's rampant."

"What we're seeing in some major cities is nobody pays consequences for violent acts," he continues. "So we live in dangerous times, the most dangerous times in my life...I'm more concerned about my family's safety and security now, than ever in my lifetime."


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