A sheriff in California is (Trigger Warning) sticking to his guns.
Orange County lawman Don Barnes says he’ll not be releasing convicts, despite an order from a judge.
The sheriff made the announcement Wednesday, as reported by Fox 11 News.
He put it bluntly — and in a way with which few would find argument.
But first, a little background…
As I covered on December 12th, in response to the pandemic and in the interest of inmate health, Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson ordered the OC top cop to liquidate half the horde in jail.
From the Dec. 11th ruling:
The uncontested facts found here include that conditions in the jail do not permit proper social distancing, there is no mandatory testing of staff or asymptomatic detainees after intake, and no strictly enforced policy of requiring masks for all staff interaction with inmates.
At the time, I noted California’s third largest county was looking at a major move — as indicated by Don on social media, the court was effectively demanding 1,800 convicts be let out:
Please see my statement below following an order from the court mandating the release of more than 1,800 inmates from the Orange County Jail. pic.twitter.com/Y6PuIKVlPr
— OC Sheriff Don Barnes (@OCSheriffBarnes) December 12, 2020
And now, it’s official: The sheriff won’t do it.
How’s this for a sound statement:
“I refuse to release murderers and pedophiles.”
He told KTTV the folks at issue aren’t all boy scouts and altar boys:
“It’s dangerous. These people are not here for minor offenses.”
Fox observes Don’s not alone in his stance:
Families say their loved ones deserve to be safe from the pandemic, while victim advocates say it’s the victims that deserve to feel safe, which they don’t, with their perpetrators getting out.
“I am getting calls from hysterical people, thinking that their cases will come undone, or these criminals will go after them,” says Patricia Wenskunas, from Crimesurvivors.org, who says she wants victims to know they are not alone.
To be clear, they’ve already turned a ton loose:
[OC DA Todd Spitzer ] says his numbers indicate of the almost-2,000 inmates already released from OC jails due to COVID-19 concerns, 44% have committed other crimes, including a 23-year-old man who is accused of stabbing and killing his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend. He had been released on zero bail three weeks prior.
The jail population in Orange County has already been reduced by 33%, but a recent uptick in coronavirus cases has health officials worried. The judge’s order comes out of an ACLU lawsuit to reduce the jail population to allow for more social distancing during the pandemic.
In a statement, the sheriff shot the ACLU, who filed the lawsuit preceding the order:
“This organization views criminal activity through rose colored glasses while turning a blind eye to victims and the law abiding Orange County public. For months we have fought against their ongoing attempts to release dangerous offenders into the neighborhoods of Orange County. We will not be deterred by one court ruling and will use every available legal avenue to keep these offenders out of our community.”
The number’s now been lowered from 1,800, but for the Don, it’s still a no-go:
“On Wednesday, the judge clarified the specifics of his order and the number of potential releases is now based on the inmate population in March 2020. Even with the clarification the order would result in the release of hundreds of inmates.”
Would you like these fellas flyin’ the coop? A look at the candidates:
“Over the course of the last several months, I have made the decision to release those who have committed low-level offenses during the remaining period of their sentences. … We have approximately 700 medically vulnerable inmates remaining in our custody. This population includes 58 who are charged with murder, 39 charged with attempted murder, 69 charged with robbery, 87 charged with assault, 76 charged with domestic violence, and 94 charged with child molestation. I have considered their release and made my decision. These serious offenders must be kept in custody.”
Don’s dug in. And he bottom-lined it like a, well, like a sheriff:
“My department and I will fight this ruling in order to preserve the integrity of our criminal justice system and, most importantly, protect the safety of Orange County residents.”