Citing claims that New York City’s jails are too dangerous for both inmates and guards during the coronavirus pandemic, Gotham has been cutting thousands of criminals loose as part of its “empty the jails” campaign. This group of lucky reprobates included Robert Pondexter who was put back out on the streets on April 15th. Pondexter had previously been convicted of rape, along with a variety of other drug-related charges, and was not yet supposed to be done with his sentence. You’ll never in a million years be able to guess what happened next. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.)

Only ten days later, on Saturday, Pondexter was back in court after sexually assaulting and attempting to rape another woman. He was also working a crack pipe when the cops caught up to him. His victim was taken to a local hospital but is expected to recover… physically, a least. (NY Post)

An East Flatbush man who’d been jailed on a rape charge attacked and almost raped another woman just 10 days after he was released from Rikers Island over coronavirus fears, police sources said.

Police responding to a 911 call found Robert Pondexter, 57 — and his crackpipe — at around 5:45 a.m. Saturday on East New York Avenue, between Schenectady and Troy avenues, the sources allege.

Pondexter had allegedly been walking across the street from the Concern Heights Apartments building, a supportive housing development on the block, when he grabbed the woman by the collar and pulled her into a school parking lot.

The article linked above provides some of the graphic and gruesome details of Pondexter’s assault on the woman. It was obviously an incredibly traumatizing experience and a nightmare that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. And it was completely preventable. If the rapist was still in his jail cell where he belonged, his victim would almost certainly have made it safely back to her apartment as usual.

Sadly, as we’ve discussed here previously, this is far from the first tragic case of recidivism we’ve seen from this early release program. At the beginning of April a convicted murderer was put back out on the streets and was almost immediately arrested for attempting an armed robbery at a bank.

At this point, more than fifty benefactors of the program have been arrested again. And that’s just the ones that the police have managed to catch.

None of this is new for New York City or the rest of the state. Long before the pandemic hit, Governor Andrew Cuomo, State District Attorney Letitia James and Mayor Bill de Blasio have been pushing various so-called criminal justice reform measures designed to “empty the jails.” The COVID-19 outbreak has simply served as an excuse to accelerate the process. And the results speak for themselves.

I’m not saying that a contagious disease isn’t a concern in a crowded environment like a prison or jail. It obviously is. But the solution to that problem is to do a better job of keeping the jails sanitized and enforcing physical separation between the prisoners and their jailers. Those people are behind bars for a reason. When someone has already been convicted of murder, rape, or other violent crimes, they shouldn’t be near the top of the list for any sort of early release program. Hell, they shouldn’t even be on the list.

At what point will the Mayor and the Governor address this issue publicly? What are they going to say to the woman who was sexually assaulted on Friday night by a man who should have still been in his jail cell? Would they even be able to look her in the eye?