Letters to the Editor: It’s reckless to whip up fear over releasing inmates because of COVID-19

General population inmates walk in a line at San Quentin State Prison in 2016.
General population inmates walk at San Quentin State Prison in 2016.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

To the editor: I’m astonished at your unfortunate choice to publish the hate-baiting article, “Amid COVID-19, California releases some inmates doing time for murder. Advocates push to free more,” amid a deadly pandemic ravaging prisons and leaving human beings to the neglect, abuse and whims of an incompetent correctional system.

There is robust criminological evidence showing that the distinction between “violent” and “nonviolent” offenders is meaningless from a public safety perspective.

I’m even more astonished that you did not take the trouble to include the opinions of the thousands of victims and survivors in California who disagree with the dated, punitive stance that characterized your article. You even dragged out the tired trope of Willie Horton, fomenting hatred and dehumanization.


Shame on you.

Hadar Aviram, San Francisco

The writer is a law professor at UC Hastings College of the Law.


To the editor: It is my understanding that those inmates convicted of a sexual offense are not to be considered for any COVID-19 releases.

The California law that created the tiered system for sex offender registration, Senate Bill 384, will go into effect on Jan. 1. It should remind us that there are identifiable levels of seriousness of sexual crimes, just like those outlined in this article.

I would hope that all inmates are evaluated for release using the same discretion concerning age, disability, seriousness of crime, risk of recidivating and proximity to release date.

Carole Urie, Laguna Beach


The writer is chief executive and founder of the Returning Home Foundation.


To the editor: We know politicians wish to avoid building more prisons and jails despite overcrowding. But the release of Terebea Williams — who 19 years ago shot her boyfriend, drove him 750 miles to a motel and left him to die — crosses a red line.

When there was mention of releasing violent criminals in addition to nonviolent offenders, did it never occur to anyone that this also meant murderers? With Williams, we are not even speaking of a sudden impulse killing, but rather a first-degree murder.

The details are gruesome. Anyone who can let a victim bleed out over many hours is special for all the wrong reasons.

Warren Larson, Sunland