A Massachusetts sheriff is raising concerns about jail inmates who are being released early because of fears about coronavirus outbreaks behind bars.
Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi said Thursday that inmates released from his facilities have re-offended, found themselves homeless and relapsed into drug use.
"This is literally a circus and it’s unfolding right before my very eyes. This is a serious public safety threat and many of these people also are dangers to themselves,” Cocchi said at a news conference, according to Masslive.com. “They get out of jail to escape COVID-19 and go back to far more dangerous and risky environments."
One inmate died of a heroin overdose days after his release. Another spent his first night after his release sleeping in a dumpster. A drug dependent inmate relapsed after her release, and returned to prostitution, according to Cocchi’s records.
Defense attorneys say the pandemic has spotlighted problems with the penal system and resources used to incarcerate people should be redirected into community programs.
"COVID-19 or no COVID-19, there are way too many people in jail, way too many people in jail. This is a result of our country’s 50-year addiction to incarceration," said defense lawyer David Hoose, president of Western Massachusetts Lawyers for Justice.