When a judge in Detroit’s Wayne County announced eight months ago that he would begin releasing jail inmates in response to the coronavirus outbreak, he said people accused of violent crimes likely would stay behind bars. Concerns about the virus have prompted Judge Timothy Kenny to free at least 35 inmates who were accused or convicted of violent crimes, the Detroit News reports. Among those released: four men convicted of sexual assault, and 14 others convicted of assault. One sex offender is back in jail after prosecutors say he got out and raped three women at knifepoint.
In March, Kenny said he didn’t plan to release anyone accused of committing violent crimes. Between March and September, records show he freed at least seven inmates who were convicted of domestic violence and were either serving out their sentences in the jail or awaiting transport to prison. Kenny released a man after he’d pleaded guilty to domestic violence and assaulting a pregnant woman while he was on probation for an assault. Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the release of violent criminals likely is contributing to a significant spike in homicides and shootings. “This isn’t just happening in Detroit,” he said. “Cities across the country have seen violent crime go up. It’s not rocket science — when you let violent criminals out of jail, you run the risk of having more violent crime. If anyone thinks releasing these violent offenders back into the community isn’t having an effect on crime, they’re sorely mistaken.” This year, Detroit’s homicides have increased by 20 percent; nonfatal shootings are up 50 percent. Detroit Justice Center was one of several organizations suing Wayne County to get inmates released to avoid COVID-19. “This is a deadly, contagious virus, and nobody deserves to die just because they’re locked up,” said the group’s Casey Rocheteau.