COVID-19: Release Makes Good Sense

I had to make plenty of tough decisions during my career as a prosecutor: who to investigate, what charges to bring, how to try a case and what sentence to recommend.

That’s part of what makes the job so challenging — and rewarding.

But never in my 14 years did I face a dilemma quite like the one that prosecutors now encounter, as the coronavirus pandemic threatens the health of thousands of inmates in our jails and prisons across the country.
Agree to early release of certain prisoners to minimize risk to inmates, prison staff and the general public? Or hold the line and fight to keep all inmates — people who have been arrested for and in some cases convicted of crimes — behind bars?
Many prosecutors nationwide have made the difficult but just decision in recent weeks. They have agreed to release a carefully selected group of prisoners from custody, to lessen the grave risks posed by the coronavirus crisis within our prisons and beyond.
It is difficult to think of any place more susceptible to the spread of the coronavirus than prisons. One leading public defender, David Patton, called prisons in the age of coronavirus a “disaster waiting to happen,” and another official called prisons “petri dishes.”