When it comes to letting prisoners out of jail to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks, most have come to the conclusion that letting low-risk prisoners out, while not ideal, is understandable given what we now know about the disease.
While one is not necessarily thrilled that stoat-like convicted blackmailer and accused embezzler Michael Avenatti is doing his “time” at home instead of engaging in license-plate production behind the walls of a federal institution, I’m not necessarily eager to see him fall victim to coronavirus, particularly in an environment where it spreads easily.
But if your feloniousness is noxious or infamous enough that you’ve earned some kind of criminal sobriquet, I’m less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt about being set free. If that sobriquet is the Green River Killer, the answer would be no in italics. In fact, it shouldn’t even be a question. And yet, in the state of Washington, it is.
Gary Ridgeway pleaded guilty to killing 48 women, mostly runaways and prostitutes. He’s claimed to have killed 80 or more.
In other words, he’s the kind of carbon-waster who can’t really remember how many lives he’s snuffed out. He is the walking argument for the death penalty — although the 48 consecutive life sentences he received in a plea deal (without possibility of parole) should have ensured he never saw daylight. As Victoria Taft at PJ Media reported, it would have cost millions of dollars and years of appeals to finally strap him down to a table and pump enough barbiturates and opioids into his veins to deliver some measure of justice.
Notice I said “should.” Washington’s state Supreme Court came within one vote of affirming a lawsuit which would have emptied Washington’s prisons of two-thirds of their prisoners because of the coronavirus — including, potentially, Ridgway.
And let’s say one of these prisoners were to be released into your neighborhood to protect them from coronavirus. Want to use your Second Amendment right to protect youreself and your family just in case their criminal proclivities resurface? Sorry — gun stores are considered “non-essential” in Washington state, too, and technically have been ordered to close. To protect you from coronavirus, you understand.
So first, why Ridgway might have been released. Columbia Legal Services describes itself on its website as a “legal impact organization” that focuses on “big, systemic change.” I’d say so. They’re the ones behind the lawsuit that would have opened the cell doors across the state of Washington in a dramatic fashion.
“We support healthy and safe communities and our communities don’t stop at the doors of our state prisons,” Nick Allen, an attorney for the group, said in a statement to KCPQ-TV.
“If we’re to respond effectively to this global pandemic we must ensure that everyone is protected from exposure to COVID-19, including the most vulnerable members of our communities, and that includes people who are incarcerated.”
Those vulnerable prisoners. It’s like, their freedom was robbed from them just because they committed some sort of crime against a target who was doubtlessly privileged.
KCPQ says this was a statement from Allen, by the way. This wasn’t just some off-the-cuff remark where Allen could be forgiven for word choice on the fly. He apparently thought about this for some indeterminate period of time and came to the conclusion that prisoners are vulnerable, even those who have preyed upon the vulnerable in the most heinous of ways.
Columbia Legal Services’ lawsuit, according to KCPQ, was “asking for the release of inmates over age 50, inmates with an underlying health issue including pregnancy, or inmates with 18 months or less remaining on their sentence.”
Even more disturbingly, according to the Lewis County, Washington, Daily Chronicle, the suit would also require those suffering from mental illness to be included in that whole “underlying medical condition” category.
The suit argues that they could contribute to the spread of the disease because “people living with mental health conditions may be less likely to appreciate their symptoms, understand what to do if they become ill, or respond appropriately if isolated or quarantined.”
Yes, because mental illness has no impact on how dangerous a criminal may be. Again, this is a lawsuit, not just some liberal Twitterers giving you a piece of their mind. The Columbia Legal Services activists actually thought about this.
Notice that there’s no consideration for the seriousness of the crime, either. That’s of limited relevance, apparently. The theory, I suppose, is that older prisoners, those who have almost served their debt to society and those who have health issues are both less likely to re-offend and more likely to have complications from coronavirus infection.
Thus, according to a certain line of thinking, they can be safely released until the pandemic passes.
Prosecutors, fortunately, weren’t going along.
As the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys pointed out in an amicus brief, “The Petitioners demand that 2/3 of the prison population be released into the community, a number which includes serial killers and capital murderers.”
“We’re not talking about low-level druggies and low-level property crimes,” Skagit County chief deputy criminal prosecutor Rosemary Kaholokula told the Skagit Valley Herald. “We’re talking about really bad people.”
The Washington state Supreme Court denied the suit in a Thursday ruling, but only by a 5-4 decision. That’s not to say it won’t resurface in a different form, however. We’re not at the beginning of the end when it comes to our collective coronavirus panic, and we might not even be at the end of the beginning.
The immoral arc of mindless progressivism is long, after all, and it bends toward persistence. While the next iteration of the suit, if it happens, might not free Gary Ridgway, Washington state residents could still end up with a lot of bad hombres in their neighborhood.
Unfortunately, if self-defense is on your mind, Washington won’t trust you to socially distance inside a gun store.
Washington is one of the states that deem firearms sales “non-essential.” And under an order Inslee issued March 20, all “non-essential” businesses are supposed to close. (I seem to remember something in the Constitution about bearing arms — “… shall not be infringed?” I dunno, probably not something that gets litigated often but apparently gun stores are verboten.)
I suppose even a cynic like me can find bright spots in this. The court denied this preposterous and dangerous suit, after all; a 5-4 win for sanity is still a win for sanity. Also, as the Seattle Times reported early last month, some Washington state gun sellers are staying open in spite of the ban.
“We don’t have anything in writing that says we need to stay closed,” Tiffany Teasdale, owner of Lynnwood Gun, told the paper in an article published April 1. “And I don’t know anything about what [Washington Gov. Jay Inslee] has said.”
Wade’s Eastside Guns in Bellvue had this message, meanwhile: “Your right to the protection of yourself, your family and others is an essential need and a constitutional right!”
So there’s that. Washington’s prison population is still where the justice system decided they should be and at least some Washingtonians take the right to purchase firearms seriously.
As for the potential for another iteration of the lawsuit and more attempts to let those “really bad people” out of prison, let me quote the recently released Mr. Avenatti with a phrase he was known to frequently use in better times, both for him and for the nation: “#BASTA.”