CoVid-19 in the OC Jails: We need a BIG early release!


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Okay, a couple of things for you to think about, while you’re busy self-isolating as you should be:

Picture if you will a person, a person from Orange County, accused of something like maybe trespassing or theft or vandalism, maybe convicted already or maybe only awaiting trial unable to afford bail.  Or maybe on a probation violation, which could be as minor as having a screwdriver or joint of marijuana in one’s possession, or missing an appointment with their PO.  Or maybe even something more serious, like a DUI or drug sales.

You might say that person deserves, in normal times, some time in jail.  You know, to prevent such behavior, and make society a little safer.  But again, these are not normal times, as we hardly need to remind you.  Does that person deserve a death sentence, in an institution – like our OC jails – that has become a petri dish for the Coronavirus? 

Wouldn’t that constitute what some memorable authors once called “cruel and unusual punishment?”

(Don Wagner’s fever vision)

Or, if that’s not convincing to you, what about the fact that while we’re out here putting all our efforts into killing this pandemic, folks incarcerated in the COVID hotbeds of Central and Lacy are going to inevitably be getting out and walking amongst us? (And no, Supervisor Wagner, that’s not an argument for keeping them in there forever, but an argument that we don’t want a COVID hotbed ANYWHERE in our society.)

Well, as the Voice reported today, there’s now a group of defense attorneys suing for the release of many OC inmates:  

“those serving sentences for misdemeanors, or awaiting trial for misdemeanors, those held for probation or parole violations or for immigration, those with remaining actual custody time to release of less than 6 months, all these held on non-violent charges, and all other pretrial detainees who can post $10,000 bond.”

That would be a LOT of releases!  More than most advocates and health experts are demanding, the most common of which is: everyone with 60 days or less left.  And on the 24th, OC Superior Court Presiding Judge Kirk Nakamura issued an amended order advising zero bail for many minor offenses, as well as early release for “60 days and under.” 

OC Sheriff Don Barnes, who would have to implement the early releases, went to the Judge and literally asked to be ordered to do it.  Barnes, like DA Todd Spitzer, is a popularly elected politician whose whole public image is all about being tough on crime, and protecting the poor helpless citizen from lawbreaking miscreants.  Don and Todd seem to lack the nimbleness to adjust to a world ruled by a Virus much more dangerous than miscreants, and need a scapegoat to blame their sensible actions on – a liberal bogeyman judge like Nakamura (appointed in 2001 by Gray Davis.) 

Nakamura, Barnes

Well, the good Judge woulda done us all a favor if he’d agreed to be that bogeyman, but instead he issued an order that was merely advisory, telling Barnes the he, as Sheriff, already had the authority to make these early releases.  So now Barnes is moving slowly, having released “under 10 days” over this past weekend, and now contemplating “under 30 days.”

Well, he should hurry the hell up – every day matters in this fight against the Coronavirus, and the OC jail’s population will have to be at least HALVED if there’s to be any kind of healthy social distancing there!  Chop chop – this is another essential front in ALL of our War against the Virus.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.