KEY POINTS

  • Some of the convicts released to ease pressure on jails return soon
  • Authorities say they have no choice but to release non-violent offenders
  • Jails, prisons are still overflowing.

The American Civil Liberties Union and prisoner rights advocates pushed local governments to release convicts early to lessen jail and prison populations to check the spread of the coronavirus. Some of the freed inmates found themselves reincarcerated within days. 

Authorities in Texas are looking for Timothy Singleton, who was released on bail in March. He is accused of breaking into his girlfriend’s house on Wednesday. Singleton then reportedly "pummeled" her and "ripped out her weave," according to KTRK. He is also accused of throwing the victim’s grandmother to the ground and stripping her before fleeing. 

The District Attorney’s Office in Harris County, Texas was appealing the county’s choice to release Singleton on a $50 bond after he was arrested. He has a long criminal background. 

At his first court appearance at the end of March, Magistrate Jennifer Gaut and prosecutor Karen Barney had a heated exchange about the bond amount, KTRK reported. Barney requested a $50,000 bond based on his criminal history. Gaut ultimately explained COVID-19 concerns in the jail were driving her decisions. District Judge Chris Morton upheld the bond.  

Quaran Pope, 21, was released by an emergency order from County Judge Line Hidalgo before being stopped by a district judge. 

He was back in jail Wednesday night, charged with burglary of a car and theft of personal and bank account numbers by three people. These are crimes he has previously been convicted of. 

Harris County jail cases continue to grow. The Sheriff’s Office said 85 people who work there and 68 inmates were infected Wednesday. “Day by day, these cases are growing exponentially, which we feared,” Hidalgo told ABC13. 

On March 19, Hillsborough County, Florida decided to decrease its jail count amid the pandemic. It let 164 prisoners out as part of a plan to arrest the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

One of the inmates released was John Williams, a low-level, non-violent offender, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister. 

Williams was arrested April 13 and charged with second-degree murder, resisting arrest with violence, possession of a firearm, possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia. He is held with a no-bond status. 

He was previously convicted of two felony offenses including burglary of an unoccupied conveyance in 2012 and possession of a firearm in 2018, in addition to five misdemeanor convictions, according to the sheriff's department. Williams has been arrested 35 times. 

Chronister now claims Williams “took advantage” of the administrative order to free inmates amid the coronavirus pandemic to “commit crimes.” 

“As a result, I call on the state attorney to prosecute this defendant to the fullest extent of the law,” Chronister said. 

“Judges, prosecutors, and sheriffs around the country are facing difficult decisions during this health crisis with respect to balancing public health and public safety,” he added. “Sheriffs in Florida and throughout our country have released non-violent, low-level offenders to protect our deputies and the jail population from an outbreak.”