It seems as if not even a week can go by without yet another of these “empty the jails” stories popping up in the headlines. Today’s tale takes us back to Colorado. In fact, it’s the same jail where we covered another such story just last weekend. In that episode, an inmate of the Weld County Jail was released early to protect him from the coronavirus, only to break into a county pool vehicle to steal money minutes after he left the building.
Unfortunately, this week’s entry is considerably more serious. An inmate sentenced to two years for child endangerment and other charges was released after only 48 days, with the judge accepting the argument that he might be exposed to the virus. Less than a month later, the police are trying to track him down after he allegedly attempted to strangle a woman, leaving her hospitalized after the attack. (CBS Denver)
A former Weld County Jail inmate, who was released early from a two year sentence due to COVID-19 concerns, is now accused of attacking and strangling someone one month after his release. The Windsor Police Department is now searching for Christopher A. Vecchiarelli, 36, after they say he attacked a woman, leaving bruises in several places and fracturing her arm.
According to court records obtained by CBS4, Vecchiarelli was released from the Weld County Jail on April 7, 2020 following his attorney’s accusations that incarceration in Weld County was increasing “risks and lethality of COVID-19.”
I’m not sure what’s going on in the Weld County Courthouse, but somebody should probably look into this. When the judge heard the petition from Christopher Vecchiarelli, the District Attorney filed a strenuous objection. He pointed out that “This Defendant presents a high degree of risk not only to the community…with the behaviors he continues to exhibit.”
That wasn’t enough to persuade the judge, though she did order some restrictions on Vecchiarelli”s movements. He was cut loose on April 7 with orders to report for work release out of custody on June 24th. He was to wear an electronic monitoring device and serve out the remainder of his current term on work release while remaining in home confinement when not at work.
Obviously, Vecchiarelli didn’t make it even close to June 24th without allegedly running afoul of the law and it’s not clear if he was obeying the order to wear the monitoring device. The victim, who was not named out of a need to protect her identity, clearly seemed to know Vecchiarelli and had no doubts about his identity. She was hospitalized with a fractured arm and bruising on her neck, arms, back and one leg.
This leaves us to once again ask the same question we have in the past. Whose safety are we prioritizing when dealing with the pandemic? It’s clear that more could be done to improve conditions in some jails to suppress the spread of the virus, but if you have to choose between the safety of innocent victims in the public and inmates known to demonstrate dangerous tendencies, that seems like it would be a no-brainer.
Apparently not. “Empty the jails” is the mantra of the moment and its proponents are taking full advantage of the pandemic. But they’re not the ones paying the ultimate price for these policies.