Christine Flowers: Forget social distancing, what's happening is criminal

Christine Flowers

I got an email from the ACLU the other day. I have absolutely no idea how I got on their mailing list, since I’ve written column after column criticizing them for their positions on everything from representing accused terrorists to their problem with religion in the public square. I do not carry their card, I do not want their card and if someone offered me their card I would treat it like Abbie Hoffman treated his draft card back in the day.

The email was a request to sign on to a petition that would urge President Trump and our nation’s governors to empty the prisons. They wanted “communities that are the most vulnerable to COVID-19” to be protected. They wanted defendants released back onto the streets, or at the very least, out of custody.

There are a few problems with this proposal, the first being the suggestion that detained prisoners make up the “most vulnerable” communities for infection. Uh, no. That would be the elderly, the immune-deficient or immune-compromised, and those who have no health coverage. Just because someone has committed a crime, has been arrested and is awaiting trial (or has already been convicted) does not make him or her a high risk for the coronavirus.

So to the ACLU, I would say that being in prison does not make you a member of a vulnerable community. It makes you a member of a community that has to deal with the consequences of your actions, which in many cases involves preying upon actual vulnerable people.

But even more off-putting than the suggestion that detainees are “vulnerable” is the idea we should give them a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card because of this public health crisis. It is almost laughable that we would respond to one crisis by creating another one: criminals released back into the streets.

If you think about it, it’s laughable. Instead of looking to sanitize and maximize the safety of the detention centers by implementing protocols that will segregate certain populations that have reduced immune systems (drug users, for example), the ACLU decides to just flood communities that are already struggling to keep law-abiding citizens healthy with people who have either committed crimes or have been arrested on suspicion of committing crimes.

That is a special kind of crazy.

And to be fair to the ACLU, it is not alone in having these delusional episodes. The Police Department of Philadelphia announced last week that it wasn’t going to be arresting people for the vast majority of crimes that are committed in the city. Among the crimes included are narcotics offenses, burglary, vandalism and prostitution.

If the police encounter someone who is in the process of committing one of those crimes, they will simply confirm the identity of the offender (and you can absolutely trust that the criminal will tell them the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth because they’re all Boy Scouts,) will “prepare all relevant paperwork” and then “release the offender.” At a later date, that paperwork will be submitted to a supervisor, and if the supervisor thinks an arrest warrant is appropriate, it will be issued. Then, if D.A. Larry Krasner thinks that there are grounds for a prosecution, he will prosecute.

Realizing that perhaps initiating the Philadelphia version of “The Purge” might trouble some people, they added this provision:

“If an officer believes that releasing the offender would pose a threat to public safety, the officer will notify a supervisor who will review the totality of the circumstances and utilize discretion in the interest of public safety, in determining the appropriate course of action.”

Translation: “What the public doesn’t know won’t hurt them, let him loose.”

When I read that directive a few days ago, I really did think it was someone playing a prank on the city. It was so incredibly fantastical and the stuff of apocalyptic fiction that I thought not even Krasner and his social justice warrior band of merry men and women would come up with a blanket “no arrest” plan.

But it is legitimate, and taken together with the ACLU’s demand that we release criminals because they are part of a “vulnerable community,” I have come to the conclusion that no amount of social distancing will save us.

We’ve already gone mad.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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