by Richard McCarty
Liberal billionaire John Arnold makes no sense. He is worried that the country’s population will decline, but he generously supports the abortion lobby. He is concerned about global warming, but he tore down a historic, old mansion to build a new 20,000 square-foot home, which cannot possibly have a tiny “carbon footprint.” He wants to help catch criminals while he works to get them released quickly before trial – and then after sentencing if a pandemic occurs. Concern for the rights and wellbeing of prisoners is commendable, but the safety of the public should take precedence.
Arnold paid for a spy plane to fly over Baltimore, Maryland and record images to help police solve crimes, but he did not inform the city’s residents or their elected leaders. Unsurprisingly, some residents were not thrilled once news broke about the spying program, and it was quickly halted. Arnold then offered to pay for three planes to surveil the city. After months of consideration, city officials finally approved the use of the planes. Unfortunately, surveilling honest citizens seems to be all the rage in today’s world of quarantining all rather than focusing upon the sick and most vulnerable.
Of course, John Arnold has schizophrenically jumped on the latest crusade of the wealthy elites, the almost blind support for convicted and imprisoned criminals. For example, he wants to eliminate bail and put more criminals back out onto the streets faster, while at least in Baltimore have spies in the skies to presumably return them to jail. To further his agenda, the often-wrong but idea-filled billionaire paid to create a “public safety assessment” tool to advise judges on which suspects are safe to release before their trials.
While having an objective tool might sound like a good idea, people are complex; and it is far from clear that a tool using a simple formula can adequately assess which offenders are likely to reoffend. As previously reported, the Arnold tool utterly failed in assessing the dangerousness of a pair of armed robbery suspects. Two Indiana residents, wearing hoodies and gloves, allegedly entered a New Orleans pharmacy to rob it. The alleged assailants bound two employees with zip ties, and engaged in a shootout with police as they attempted to flee injuring an officer. Incredibly, Arnold’s assessment tool assigned these suspects the lowest risk score possible – a 1 out of 6.
Certainly, judges can make mistakes, but public safety should be better served by judges carefully evaluating arrestees, rather than relying on some random billionaire’s formula. After all, that is what judges are paid to do – use their best judgment to free the innocent while keeping society safe from dangerous criminals.
But it does not end there for Arnold; now he would like to free convicted criminals because they might contract the coronavirus in jail, which is a terrible idea. A few weeks ago, he tweeted: “49 inmates and 65 employees of the Harris County jail system have tested positive for Covid-19. Even if you’re not sympathetic to those incarcerated (though you should be), safely decreasing jail populations is necessary for the health of the staff.”
On the other hand, according to a recent survey of thousands of prisoners in four states, nearly all prisoners – 96%, in fact – who tested positive for the coronavirus had no symptoms. Out of more than 170,000 federal prisoners, there have been only 42 coronavirus deaths. Furthermore, out of more than 134,000 Texas state prisoners, there have only been about 20 coronavirus deaths. So at this point, it seems like a huge overreaction to just start freeing inmates because they might contract the virus.
Unsurprisingly, a number of criminals who have been released due to the pandemic are reoffending within just days or weeks of their release. A Florida convict was recently charged for a murder that took place just a week after his release. Dozens of New York criminals who were released have already been rearrested for crimes, including a convicted murderer who attempted to rob a bank after being released. Finally, a Utah convict, who had been released from a halfway house just a few days before, broke into a woman’s house, tied her up, told her he was going to rob her, and threatened to kill her. Thankfully, her young son was awakened by her screams and called the police, who were able to rearrest the thug.
Even if there were merit to just throwing open the jail doors, where would these inmates go? Would they move in with older relatives and endanger their health? Would they live on the streets, where they might also pick up the coronavirus? How many of these criminals is John Arnold willing to house at his palatial estate? After all, they have to go somewhere.
In addition to his bad criminal justice reform ideas, Arnold also supports gun control, which makes it harder for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves from criminals. In 2018, Arnold’s foundation announced that it was giving tens of millions of dollars to the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research and promised to raise even more. Furthermore, the foundation hired Jeremy Travis, who played a key role in crafting New York City’s gun ban, to serve as its Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice.
Like a good liberal, John Arnold appears to be more worried about criminals than he is the general public. No doubt, Arnold has a fancy security system at his home and armed security to keep him and his family safe – so he has little reason to fear being a victim of violent crime, unlike those who he would disarm with his wrong-headed gun control push. Rather than cater to the whims of out-of-touch billionaires, policymakers should focus on protecting the lives and property of those most vulnerable to criminals, including the elderly, the poor, and the working class.
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Richard McCarty is the Director of Research at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.
Photo “John Arnold” by Arnold Ventures.