Orange County jail to release 1,800 ‘worst of the worst’ inmates as 1,000 Honduran migrants make for SoCal border

by Jon Fleetwood | ​December 15, 2020

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“There’s no doubt it would jeopardize public safety because these are some of the worst of the worst.”


Those are the words of Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer blasting the Friday court order to reduce Orange County’s jail population by half, according to KABC.


The release, ordered by Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson, would allow more than 1,800 inmates back into the population.


Judge Wilson gave Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes a Dec. 30 deadline to produce a list of inmates to be released.

But Barnes raised safety concerns for the people of Orange County:


“These aren’t low-lying offenders — these are people in for very serious offenses, like murder, attempted murder, and domestic violence,” said Barnes. “The public should be in a panic and they should be concerned about this release.”


The OC Sheriff stands resolutely against the order. “I have no intention of releasing any of these individuals from my custody,” he said.

Barnes also intends on appealing the order: “We are going to file an appeal and we’re going to fight it — and if the judge has any intent of releasing any one of these individuals, he will have to go through line by line, name by name and tell me which ones he is ordering released.”


The effort to slash the county’s jail population by 50% is led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who filed a lawsuit in April aimed at protecting disabled and medically vulnerable people held at the Orange County Jail.


Judge Wilson sided with the ACLU, writing that Sheriff Barnes’ “deliberate indifference to the substantial risk of serious harm from COVID-19 infection to … medically vulnerable people in [his] custody violates their rights.”

Jacob Reisberg, who describes himself as a “Jails Conditions Advocate” with the ACLU in Southern California on his LinkedIn page, called the jails “fu----- deathtraps” on Twitter, according to Fox News.


“Public safety does not just mean crime,” Reisberg said. “Public safety also means, is there a hospital bed open if you get sick? And if there’s a massive outbreak in the jail, which this de-population order is trying to avoid, there will not be hospital capacity in Orange County for people on the outside who get COVID.”


But according to the website, almost 700 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 since March. Three have been hospitalized, and none have died.


How many of those inmates the ACLU and Judge Wilson want to release into the Southern California population test positive for COVID-19?


The sword cuts both ways. If it’s dangerous for inmates to be inside the jail with COVID-19, then it’s dangerous for the public to be exposed to potentially infected inmates outside the jail.


If the main goal is “public safety” and not spreading the virus, then releasing infected criminals is doubly dangerous. It puts innocent Orange County men, women, children, and the elderly at risk of having a crime committed against them, but it also puts them at greater risk of exposure to the virus.


It’s hard for Orange County residents to tell whether Judge Wilson, Jacob Reisberg, and the ACLU care more about safety than they do about making a political point.


At the same time this inmate release is being argued, a caravan of more than 1,000 migrants is making its way to the Southern California border from Honduras.


“What they see is that the one who said he was going to build a wall and hated Latinos is on his way out,” said Jose Luis Gonzalez, coordinator of the Guatemala Red Jesuita con Migrantes, according to Bloomberg News.


Gonzalez was referring to President Donald Trump, who won 41% to 47% of Hispanic voters in Texas and 45% of the Latino vote in Florida. According to NBC News, Trump’s stunning gains among Latino voters shouldn’t come as a surprise because “Trump’s messaging [has] resonated with Latino voters.”


Daniel Garza is president of The LIBRE Initiative, a Hispanic center-right organization, therefore views Trump’s relationship to the Latino community differently. He says, “I think Latinos understand Trump can be coarse sometimes and can be uncouth, but then they take a look at his policies that a lot of Latinos embrace — pro-growth, entrepreneurial — these are all policies Latinos can embrace.”


Nevertheless, Honduran immigrants are emboldened by the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency, which promises to reverse Trump’s deterrent immigration policies.


Gonzalez expects the number of migrants in the caravan to grow. “There are going to be caravans, and in the coming weeks it will increase,” explains Gonzales.


This is concerning because top border officials are warning of a “full-blown crisis overnight” noting that illegal crossings hit 70,000 in November, four times more than in April.


SoCal citizens are asking how many of these migrants are criminals and how many of them test positive for COVID-19, especially in light of the fact that the people in these caravans “are no longer scared of the coronavirus,” according to Gonzalez.


What about the rights, safety, and health of law-abiding Californians?