It’s the other side of the criminal justice story nobody in politics wants to discuss. Under Reagan, and until fairly recently, the Republican Party was a platform for victims of crime and law enforcement. Now, nobody is listening to the cries of victims caught in the epidemic of repeat violent offenders barely serving time and getting released to perpetrate more violence. Here are just a few of the latest stories we’ve been tracking.
Christopher Neal won’t be home to spend Christmas with his wife and two-year-old daughter in Comstock, Michigan, but if we actually had a criminal justice system focused on deterring and punishing crime rather than reducing the prison population, he almost certainly would still be alive.
On Dec. 1, Kalamazoo County police were called to the scene of a home invasion-turned-hostage standoff when Christopher Neal’s wife called 911 from their home. William Jones, 35, allegedly broke into the house and took Christopher hostage at gunpoint. Jones allegedly shot Neal in the head and then fired shots at officers when they entered the home, injuring three of them. Jones is now charged with 19 felonies, including first-degree murder and robbery.
It would be tragic enough if Jones were a first-time offender who was not on the radar of the criminal justice system. However, as is almost always the case with murderers, Jones had a massive criminal history, 26 years long, even dating back to breaking and entering at the age of nine. Court records show he was arrested but not convicted for murder in 2006 in Stark County, Ohio. He has, however, been convicted of six other felonies in southwest Michigan since 2002, including, you guessed it, home invasion and assault.
Yet even at the height of the so-called “incarceration epidemic” in the early 2000s, Jones was never put away for too long. Jones pled guilty to at least four domestic violence and assault and battery charges in 2017 and 2018 in southwest Michigan. He was arrested in August 2018 for a series of home invasions terrorizing the Battle Creek area. Finally, in April of this year, he pleaded guilty to using a stolen credit card to make purchases. Yet, according to Calhoun County prosecutor David Gilbert, the state sentencing guidelines ensured that what should have been a 15-year sentence resulted in just one year behind bars, some of which was served before his guilty plea.
Jones was released from Calhoun County Jail on Nov. 26, 2019, just five days before allegedly murdering Christopher Neal.
This epidemic of repeat offenders being released onto our streets to commit more serious crimes is happening across the nation, but Chicago is one of the hot spots. Jose Santoyo was ordered held without bond on Friday after he was caught through eyewitness testimony and DNA evidence allegedly sexually assaulting and choking an 11-year-old girl in her own bed. He already had two other warrants charging him with DUI and eluding police in separate cases and four felony convictions, but barely served time in prison.
Also in Chicago, while law-abiding citizens were preparing for Thanksgiving, 21-year-old Titus Lott went on a robbery spree, allegedly committing five robberies on the south side over the course of Thanksgiving week. He had been released early from prison just two months before for two robbery convictions. Despite the armed robbery convictions, he served just four years in prison and was able to commit more armed robberies, allegedly slamming a gun into the temple of one victim.
Last Monday, 42-year-old Michael Duffy was charged with beating two elderly women. He allegedly punched one woman in the face and stomped on her while she lay helpless on the ground. When police had to taze him in order to apprehend him, Duffy wound up in the emergency room, where a second female victim recognized him. According to prosecutors, the handicapped woman in the ER accused Duffy of beating her with her own cane before taking it from her.
Guess what Duffy had on his rap sheet over the years? You guessed it, robbery of women and burglary convictions. He was convicted in 2016 of beating a woman and stealing her groceries. Yet despite convictions for robbery in 2006 and 2009 and a 2011 conviction for burglary, he served just two years in prison and was out to victimize more women.