In 2020, our nation’s state and federal prison populations plummeted 15% to the lowest levels since 1992 – at the same time, murders skyrocketed nearly 30% to the highest level since 1998. By the middle of last year, local jail populations similarly shrank by an astonishing 25%.
In raw numbers, state and federal authorities reduced their prison populations by 214,000 in 2020 and local authorities reduced their jail populations by 185,000 compared to 2019. This is the worst jailbreak in American history and was committed in broad daylight. Our nation has paid the price.
So-called "coronavirus protocols" caused most of these reductions. Last year, the federal government sent thousands of inmates home in response to the pandemic. Rikers Island in New York City released 1,500 criminals, and Chicago’s largest prison released a quarter of its inmates.
Democrat-run states also released convicted murderers and an untold number of violent felons in the name of "public health." In Virginia, an accused rapist murdered his accuser. In Florida, a documented gang member murdered a 28-year-old. In my home state of Arkansas, a career criminal murdered a police officer.
What did these murderers have in common? They had all been released early from jail due to concerns about coronavirus.
Local jails had 90,000 fewer felony offenders and 76,000 fewer misdemeanor offenders behind bars by the middle of 2020. In part as a result of COVID releases, California’s state prison population dropped by 20%, New York’s dropped by 21%, Illinois’ dropped by 22%, and New Jersey’s plunged by a third.
The rash of early releases is not the entire story. The drop in incarceration in 2020 was also fueled by a shocking 40% nationwide decline in the admission of newly sentenced criminals – which indicates a massive decrease in prosecutions. In New York, there was an even starker 60% drop in admission of newly sentenced criminals. In California, there was a 66% drop, the biggest decline of any state.
First and foremost, we need prosecutors who will prosecute.
This concentrated drop in prosecutions is virtually unexplainable, except by the proliferation of progressive "Soros prosecutors" and a shrinking willingness to hold the guilty accountable.
There were certainly plenty of crimes to prosecute last year when over 100,000 Americans died from homicide and drug overdoses and the nation was wracked with the worst rioting in a generation. Initial data also shows that California experienced a 31% increase in murders, while New York experienced a 142% increase in gang killings and a 42% increase in murders overall. Yet prosecutions and incarceration plummeted.
Of course, it’s no coincidence that the largest reduction in incarceration in American history occurred at the same time as the largest surge in murder and drug overdose deaths in American history. This under-incarceration crisis must end.
First and foremost, we need prosecutors who will prosecute. That means recalling, removing and replacing every Soros prosecutor throughout the nation. The president should also surge federal prosecutors to crime-infested cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore, where authorities have shown no willingness or ability to maintain order.
It is also time to build more and better prisons. One potential source for this funding is the hundreds of billions of dollars of leftover COVID relief money. If coronavirus can be used as an excuse to release criminals, these relief funds could be used to build or improve existing prison facilities. Alabama has already taken this step and more states should follow suit.
In 2004, a clueless New York Times headline read, "Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates" – it should have read "Increase in Inmates Leads to Drop in Crime." Democrats are even more ignorant today than the New York Times was then. There is a simple three-word solution to the current crime crisis: "Lock them up."