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COVID-19 Cure – Empty the Prisons?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

In April of 2011 (former) Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel infamously said, "You never want a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before."  As our nation finds itself in the grips of coronamania, we're seeing the manifestation of Emanuel's startling statement play out right before our eyes.


The coronavirus crisis is real. Whether or not the reaction to it is fully warranted is another discussion but that people are getting sick is undeniable and governmental bodies are enacting measures they deem necessary to control its spread. Does letting prisoners out of prison seem like a prudent step toward containing this outbreak? That's exactly what some want to do.


Of all the disturbing trends we're seeing in our nation's most liberal bastions few are more disturbing than that of elected officials siding with criminals ahead of the general law-abiding public. It’s happening all over. New York's new cashless bail reforms — wherein criminals are simply released back onto the streets so long as they pinky swear to show up for their court date — have led to a spike in crime there. 


A new wave of elected officials who fancy themselves “social justice prosecutors” refuse to enforce the laws they're sworn to uphold. In part because more poor and minorities end up in jail, these people view the entire criminal justice system as biased, unfair and in need of overhaul.


One of the things they want is fewer people imprisoned for the commission of crimes. But do most Americans want that? No. So how to accomplish it?  That's where a handy crisis comes into play: COVID-19.


In Colorado, the ACLU and other 'civil rights advocates' called on Governor Polis to reduce jail and prison populations to help fight the spread of COVID-19. The Colorado Springs Gazette editorial board saw through the call for law enforcement to make fewer arrests and rightly called them out, saying their true motive, “is not protecting the public’s health and welfare. It is obtaining freedom for the people they defend.”

Just a few items on the list of demands, which the editorial board called a “criminal defense lawyer's Christmas list,” include the immediate release of thousands of inmates — some a threat to public safety, the release of many people held pending trial, an expediting parole process, fewer illegal-immigrant detentions, increased use of clemency powers by the governor and the suspension of fees related to phone calls made by inmates.

Somehow free phone calls from prisons will aid in the nation’s attempts to arrest the spread of coronavirus. Remarkably, they're claiming that moving inmates from the incarcerated population and into the general citizen population will likewise retard the spread of coronavirus.


To say this defies logic is an exercise in understatement. Lest anyone think this an isolated example, folks in Ohio have released 300 defendants to try the same strategy.


This ball is rolling on a national level too. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) has already teamed up with fellow Squad members and failed 2020 presidential candidate Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to formally request the Federal Bureau of Prisons to enact “compassionate leave” or even commute sentences due to coronavirus. You can’t make this stuff up. Pressley presented the case last week to Al Sharpton on MSNBC.


Connecting the dots between releasing inmates from prison and slowing the spread of COVID-19 is a such a herculean challenge that one can't help but question true motives. Are these people really concerned with the public and inmate population's health and well-being? Or, since most American's DON'T WANT more criminals on their streets, is this a crisis presenting an opportunity to do things you otherwise couldn't have done?


Derrick Wilburn is a Centennial Institute Fellow, Founder and Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives and POC Capitol Interns

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