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Chicago: A hellhole for parole, free bail, and jailbreak for violent gun felons

Chicago: A hellhole for parole, free bail, and jailbreak for violent gun felons

Why aren’t Republicans pounding the lectern with righteous indignation about violent gun felons being let off easy by the judicial system the same way Democrats engage in cerebral gyrations over guns? Democrats have sob stories for their gun control agenda. Republicans need to look no farther than Chicago as the poster child for criminal control.

On June 23, 2017, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson stood beside then-Gov. Bruce Rauner and celebrated the passage of a bill stiffening sentences on gun felons. "1,400 individuals, who are repeat gun offenders, just imagine if we took 50 percent of them off the street where our gun violence would go in the city of Chicago," declared Johnson at the signing ceremony. "Gun offenders get slaps on the wrist in this city — and it has to stop. I need our judicial partners and our state legislators to help me close this gap."

Well, thanks to the goal among both parties to reduce the prison population at all costs, things have only gotten worse over the past two years. You see, while politicians tell the public they want to keep people safe, Gov. Rauner also made it his goal to cut the prison population by 25 percent.

According to CWB Chicago, a local crime watchdog, a Cook County judge granted a repeat violent gun felon a special deal on bail that allowed him to walk straight out of the courthouse without posting a dime of bond. Joaquin Urcino is a career criminal with a record dating back to 1991 for everything from homicide and drugs to stolen vehicles, aggravated battery with a firearm, and assault. On July 12, police arrested Urcino, a Two Six gang member, for firing four shots out of his apartment window. He was charged with felony use of a firearm by a felon while on parole, felony reckless discharge of a firearm, and felony possession of a controlled substance.

One would expect someone like this, who served (brief) time for homicide and for shooting another person, to be locked up without bail when caught illegally possessing and discharging a firearm, right? This is especially true given that he was out on parole at the time of his arrest and such an egregious violation should have triggered an automatic re-incarceration. Well, on August 22, Judge Carol Howard let him walk on $100,000 bail, but rather than making him give the customary $10,000 deposit, she let him go for free.

This is all the result of the aggressive and obsessive bipartisan push to let people out without bond and replace incarceration with probation, then avoid enforcing violations of probations so as not to increase the prison population. The goal is 100 percent focused on reducing the prison population without reducing crime with a stronger deterrent, all the while lying to the public that these are just first-time, low-level offenders.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Corrections, the prison population has declined by almost 20 percent since 2013. The Crime Report chronicles how some counties began working with judges to consider jail capacity as a factor in determining whether to give jail time or probation to a new offender. Judges would then allow the criminal offenders to develop a “pretrial” record by their behavior while out with little or no bond to determine their ultimate sentencing at the end of the trial. For example, in McLean County in 2011, “42 percent went to prison and 57 percent were put on probation.” By 2016, “29 percent of convicted felons were sent to prison and 70 percent went on probation.”

That is the power of jailbreak. Now the effects are reverberating across the state. The number of murders statewide jumped 54 percent from 2014 to 2016, while the number of aggravated assaults climbed 16.7 percent.

Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported on a missing woman who police believe was murdered by someone who is out on parole and remains a fugitive. Several years ago, the suspect “was convicted of hitting his girlfriend with a pipe and hammer, pouring a caustic substance on her and setting her on fire.” In addition, he had a domestic battery conviction in 2011 and “felony convictions for armed robbery, aggravated battery and burglary” in the preceding decade. One would expect someone like that to be put away for life, but he was placed on parole in November 2018, barely serving any time.

This past weekend, another eight people were killed and over 40 wounded in Chicago in shootings. While we don’t yet know definitively who committed these crimes, in June, Anthony Guglielmi, spokesman for the Chicago police, gave a description of the perpetrators in a similar shooting spree:

As you can see, many of them had previous convictions, including gun felonies, yet were let out on the streets again. It often takes years to get a court date while these people remain free. This is why the jail population is plummeting in addition to the prison population. Many offenders don’t even have to post bail.

Even when they are finally sentenced, many of them get off with parole. Given that they know the system is reluctant to put them back in prison, there is no deterrent against re-offending. Moreover, as Chicago Tribune editorial board member John Kass recently noted, the monitoring system for those on parole is weak because “there are only 100 deputies monitoring the system to watch over more than 2,000 alleged criminals, many of them violent.” Proponents of the jailbreak agenda want to have it both ways – reduce the prison population but then spend no additional funds on building a post-incarceration security apparatus because they want to talk about saving money.

Sadly, even phony conservative groups, along with liberal ones, are pushing for even more “bail reform” in their effort to avoid incarceration at all costs. These groups refuse to be honest that what was sold to the public as a movement to loosen laws on “first-time, low-level” offenders has been used as a vehicle for releasing the worst repeat violent offenders.

What Eddie Johnson said about Chicago is true of almost every city. It’s a relatively small number of people committing most of the murder and robbery in any given area. Liberals claim an urgent need to “do something” about gun violence just to save one life. Well, actually enforcing our laws against violent gun felons and ending all of the liberal “criminal justice reform” loopholes would save thousands of lives every year. How any national discussion over gun violence can ignore the 800-pound gorilla of repeat gun offenders being let out on the streets is a testament to the dishonest foundation of this entire debate.

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Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz

Blaze Podcast Host

Daniel Horowitz is the host of “Conservative Review with Daniel Horowitz” and a senior editor for Blaze News.
@RMConservative →