Panic. Orange County judge orders jail to be emptied by half

We’ve written about newly minted Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon here previously. He’s the guy who ran for office on a platform of letting more criminals out of jail than putting the guilty behind bars. Upon taking office, he immediately issued an order saying that his office would refuse to prosecute a wide range of crimes, spreading alarm throughout the city. Then, as John previously reported, he followed that up by dropping the special circumstances against a criminal who executed a police officer by shooting him in the back of the head. (Wouldn’t want the poor soul doing any extra time in jail, now would we?)

Now Gascon appears to have a new ally in the California legal system and he is upping the ante even further. Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson issued an order to empty all of the jail cells by half, using the pandemic as an excuse like so many other liberals. This sort of “empty the jails” mentality is becoming a common feature in too many of our increasingly dysfunctional cities. (CBS Los Angeles)

A judge has ordered the Orange County jail population to be cut in half so that inmates can properly social distance and abide by coronavirus safety protocols.

On Friday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson ruled 1,858 inmates must be released from the Orange County jail to reduce the population by 50%. The jail currently houses 3,716 inmates.

But law enforcement said the decision is putting the safety of the public at risk.

“These aren’t low-lying offenders,” said Sheriff Don Barnes of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. “These are people in for very serious offenses, like murder, attempted murder, and domestic violence.”

Don Barnes is the Sheriff of Orange County and he told CBS that the public “should be in a panic” at this point. That doesn’t sound like hyperbole to anyone who’s been following this story. When the judge demanded that 1,858 inmates be released, he should have said “another 1,858” because the county already let more than 1,300 prisoners back out onto the streets citing the pandemic as the reason.

What Judge Wilson doesn’t seem to realize, or perhaps simply doesn’t care about, is that they’ve already let all of the mostly non-violent offenders go. As the Sheriff points out, the ones that are left include hundreds of inmates who are behind bars for murder, attempted murder, child molestations, rape, and domestic assault. If the judge’s order is carried out, Orange County is going to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Would you prefer to risk additional people in the form of violent criminals dying of COVID behind bars or more people being killed or maimed by violent thugs out in the streets?

As to the question of “if” the order will be followed, that’s still up in the air. The judge gave the Sheriff until December 30 to provide a list of names of prisoners to be released. Sheriff Barnes flatly refused to do that. “If this judge is going to order the release of people entrusted in my care who I believe present a significant threat to the public, he will have to identify each one of them by name and order their release pursuant to his authority, not mine,” Barnes said.

That’s probably the best approach the Sheriff could have taken. If a bunch of these criminals immediately return to their old ways and it was Barnes who authorized their release, you can imagine what the headlines would be. But now, assuming this plan moves forward, every person who winds up being killed, injured, or raped at the hands of the recidivists will be reported as having fallen victim to someone put out on the street by Judge Wilson.

Southern California has become increasingly unsafe in recent years and it’s not just the fault of the criminals. These efforts to decriminalize everything and empty the jails are producing what should have been entirely predictable results. I’ll readily concede that some people probably wind up doing too much time for nonviolent offenses, but the vast majority of people who are in jail are there for a very good reason.