Out in Chicago, some people seem to be taking this whole “empty the jails” movement a bit too far. And in this case, I’m not talking about elected officials. A 21-year-old man by the name of Jahquez Scott was in the Cook County Jail on charges of assaulting a police officer and illegal possession of a firearm with a hefty bond required before he could be released. It so happens that a judge had recently ordered the jail to provide facemasks to all of the inmates to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the facility. In fact, that only mugshot the cops had of Scott showed him wearing a mask.

This gave the felon an idea, apparently. He went to another inmate who was scheduled to be released on a much lower bond and promised him some cash to swap IDs with him. With his new ID in hand and nobody able to see his face, Scott simply filled out the other prisoner’s paperwork, checked himself out of the jail and disappeared back out onto the streets of Chicago. (CBS Chicago)

A Cook County Jail inmate switched identities with another inmate and was wrongfully released while wearing a face mask this past weekend, the Sheriff’s office said.

On Saturday, Quintin Henderson, 28, was scheduled to be released from custody on an I-bond for a drug charge, when he gave his identity to another inmate, Jahquez Scott, for a promise of $1,000, the Sheriff’s office said.

Scott, 21, was wearing a mask when he used Henderson’s full name and personal information pose as Henderson and leave jail on the I-bond, the Sheriff’s office said.

Quintin Henderson didn’t make a very good deal for himself. Scott promised him $1,000 in exchange for his ID, but now, instead of being released on bail, he’s being held in the jail and faces additional charges of abetting the escape of another inmate. The police were still searching for Scott as of yesterday.

If nothing else, this episode should serve as a cautionary tale for the courts and the law enforcement officials implementing their decrees. If we want to keep our criminal justice system from going totally off the rails, law enforcement officers have to be able to identify the suspects and convicts they deal with on a daily basis. Surely there is a way to have suspects briefly and safely remove a mask for a mug shot as well as when they are being processed for release.

This was always one of the known risks of changing our society to one where everyone is forced to wear masks. We’ve already seen stories of criminals randomly attacking police officers and running away while masked. One popular meme that’s been making the rounds on social media lately, while humorous, conveys a rather alarming bit of truth. “I never imagined that one day I would be walking into a bank wearing a mask and telling the bank teller to give me some money.”

If governors, mayors and other elected executive officials can’t think of any better way to suppress the spread of the novel coronavirus than forcing everyone to wear masks, they should be held responsible for also solving the new problems they are creating. A masked society renders most facial identification software useless. Even eyewitness reports become virtually useless beyond providing a general description of a suspect’s build and the clothes they were wearing.

Jail populations all over the country are currently well below normal levels. As much as possible, we should be putting prisoners in cells by themselves. And you don’t need a mask if you’re the only one in the cell. Safe meal deliveries by a masked guard should be easily doable if the inmate is instructed to stand at the back of the cell while the tray is slipped inside. Seriously… we’re not talking about figuring out quantum mechanics here. These are all challenges that we can and must overcome by doing a bit more thinking in advance before rushing into to make sweeping changes to how we function as a society.