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What's the Worst That Could Happen When Letting Prisoners Out During COVID-19?

Releasing dangerous prisoners during COVID-19 is a bad idea.

What's the Worst That Could Happen When Letting Prisoners Out During COVID-19?

We reported last week how a combination of restricted gun sales, fewer police on the job and the release of many prisoners due to the COVID-19 pandemic had all the ingredients of a perfect storm for law-abiding Americans. And while many on the anti-gun side of the equation asked what was the worst that could happen, we’ve received that answer very quickly.

As it turns out, we weren’t that far off.

Reports out of Florida indicate that one prisoner released because of the virus has been arrested again—for murder. Joseph Edward Williams, who has an extensive criminal record including 35 charges and was one of 100 prisoners freed from the Orient Road Jail to help slow the spread of the coronavirus behind bars, has been arrested for a murder that occurred the day after his release.

Williams now faces charges including second-degree murder, resisting an officer with violence, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia. Meanwhile, Sheriff Chad Chronister, who made the decision to release Williams and others, acknowledged the murder, but didn’t seem to be second-guessing his decision.

“There is no question Joseph Williams took advantage of this health emergency to commit crimes while he was out of jail awaiting resolution of a low-level, non-violent offense,” Sheriff Chronister said after the prisoner was arrested again.

And, don’t believe that Florida is the only place such a tragedy could happen. New York is another example of how releasing prisoners who have a history of violent crime is a bad idea, pandemic or not.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio admits that about 50 of the 1,400 inmates recently released from Rikers Island in an attempt to avoid widespread COVID-19 at the prison have been rearrested. 

“I think it’s unconscionable just on a human level that folks were shown mercy and this is what some of them have done,” de Blasio said at a recent press conference. “We’re going to just keep buckling down on it, making sure there’s close monitoring and supervision to the maximum step possible. And the NYPD is going to keep doing what they’re doing.”

Meanwhile in Illinois, Gov. J.B Pritzker has also jumped on the COVID-era prison release bandwagon. Reports out of Illinois, which were brought to light by Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey, indicate Pritzker actually authorized the release of some of the worst of the worst.

In fact, more than a half-dozen convicted murderers were among those turned loose in an attempt to keep them from catching COVID-19, certainly a questionable decision. It was so questionable, in fact, that several Republication lawmakers publicly addressed the governor’s decision.

“We have learned through the media that you have reduced the sentences of some violent criminals, including seven or more convicted murderers,” eight Senate Republicans recently wrote in a letter to the governor. “We are concerned that you have done so without informing the victims, their families, witnesses who testified against them, local law enforcement leaders, the judges who decided their sentences, or members of the General Assembly. Are all of these commutations because of the COVID-19 crisis? We believe that the public deserves to know.”

Despite the widespread release of prisoners and the crimes they have committed and will commit in the future, those who oppose the right to keep and bear arms continue to poke fun at Americans who have bought guns since the pandemic began. “Do people think virus-zombies are coming for their toilet paper stash?” sarcastically asked in a recent subhead.


Of course, the answer is no. But with prisoners being released throughout the country—some of whom are already victimizing law-abiding citizens—it’s reasonable to believe that being able to protect yourself from violent crime is more important now than ever.

Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.

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