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Horowitz: How lockdowns created more deaths from murderers

Op-ed
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If the shutdown of schools was the evilest part of the lockdown, the shutdown of the court system is a close second.

Throughout the past year, liberals have wrongly blamed skyrocketing crime on the pandemic rather than on their criminal release policies and BLM rioting. However, there is one important way that the pandemic — or more aptly put, the response to the pandemic — will continue to contribute to more crime for years to come. Thanks to the lockdown, politicians and judges shut down our court system for months in some cities, leading to a dangerous backlog of murder cases, which can result in many of the most dangerous criminals walking free.

Thanks to the severity and duration of the Michigan shutdown, just in Genesee County, Michigan, alone, there is a backlog of 1,300 criminal cases. As a result, the office of Prosecutor David Leyton is planning to offer more plea bargains. As I've reported over the years in numerous crime cases, plea deals create a cascading effect of leniency that allows criminals to get back on the streets for longer and commit many more crimes before being locked up.

The Fulton County, Georgia, prosecutor, Fani Willis, said that if she cannot complete enough cases by mid-September, up to 1,433 defendants charged with violent crimes could be released, of which 70%-90% are gang-related. Ever wonder how many murderers will potentially be released if the backlog continues? In King County, Washington, there are more than 250 pending murder cases and 400 sexual assault cases, out of a total of 3,000 violent crime cases. The president of the King County Superior Court said that felony trials were shut down for an entire nine months, a completely indefensible move not based on any science.

This problem is raging in red states too, where the court systems shut down for almost as long. Wonder why Houston is experiencing a 40% increase in homicides? KRIV-TV reports that the current criminal case backlog in Harris County stands at 140,000, with more than half involving felony offenses. Crime was already going up because so many Harris County violent criminals were let out with little or no bond, but the shutdown exacerbated it. Defendants out on multiple felony bonds are suspected responsible for 127 murders.

According to ABC13 news, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo "said she does not believe that building more prisons and using taxpayer dollars to support the mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders is going to fix the increased crime in Black and brown communities." Which means that is exactly what we need to do.

Even more important than funding the police is for the states to use their enormous amount of COVID funding to fund prosecutor offices, build prisons, and hire more judges and makeshift courtrooms to get these trials rolling. There is no use spending more COVID funding on testing, tracing, vaccines, ineffective treatments, and empowering the respective state departments of health. Prosecutors need the resources badly, but in order to ensure that the extra funding doesn't go toward "criminal justice reform" programs, the funding should be conditioned on landing the maximum convictions, not accepting plea bargains.

It's interesting that when it comes to the Jan. 6 protesters, our government has spared no resource in churning the wheels of justice against them. With states flush with more printed cash from the feds than ever before, where is the sense of urgency to protect victims of crime and lock up the backlog of violent criminals? It's amazing how our budget on welfare, health care, and education constantly increases well beyond the growth of the population, but when it comes to prisons, the politicians have decided they will cap the number regardless of the consequences.

Indeed, the spike in crime has nothing to do with the emotional toll of the virus, but the fact that our response to it aggravated the existing cause of already-increasing crime: namely, a lack of deterrent. Since the middle of last decade, most major cities — from the prosecutors to the judges — adopted a pro-criminal culture that stigmatized incarceration the same way our political system stigmatized parole and release in the 1990s. The COVID jailbreak simply turbocharged those existing policies and telegraphed the message to violent criminals that the law will never catch up with them. It's just one of many other ancillary side effects of the lockdowns we will be enduring for years to come.
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