L.A. sheriff releases 4,300 inmates, warns of possible crime surge
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Sheriff told FOX 11 that his decision to release over 4,000 nonviolent inmates from county jail has been effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, however, he has concerns about a potential future surge of crime as a result of so many inmates being released.
In an interview with FOX 11 on Monday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that he released 25 percent of the county inmate population, which equates to 4,276 nonviolent inmates. “We were faced with a choice, if we left the jail system fully populated and overpopulated then the pandemic is a lot easier to sweep through the jail system and jeopardize everyone’s safety,” Villanueva said.
Villanueva told FOX 11 that LASD was the first Sheriff’s department in the country to begin the early release of inmates, which they began on February 28th. LASD focused on releasing nonviolent criminals in pre-trial detention, or those who were about to finish their sentences within 30 to 60 days. 75 percent of the jail population, including the most violent, are still locked up behind bars. “We have approximately 1,200 murder suspects currently in jail, that’s greater than the entire population of some jail systems,” Villanueva said.
“There’s a point we can’t go past without putting in danger the community’s safety so we had to balance the needs of the jail versus the community’s safety.”
Despite stats showing that violent crime has been down across the board recently, the Sheriff said he fears it may not stay that way for long. “We just have to be hyper-vigilant because that pendulum can eventually swing in the opposite direction,” he said.
Specifically, Villanueva worries about a potential surge in crime following the pandemic, with thousands of inmates now on LA’s streets. “What’s going to happen is some of them are not going to go back to court, they’re gonna go to warrants to speak, for failure to appear,” Villaneuva said. “People who are not in jail are losing their jobs, much less those that didn’t have a job, to begin with, and are out on the streets, we’re now adding to the mix, it’s uncharted territory that we’re headed into.”