Saturday, July 25, 2020

Christianity Today wonders if churches should welcome registrants

Megan Fowler, in a Christianity Today article titled, Sex Offenders Can Find Hope in Christ But Not Necessarily a Place at Church, begins: 
Churches that suspended in-person gatherings during the pandemic have pledged not to welcome their congregations back until they’re sure they can be safe.
The pandemic is on the minds of everyone who wants to return to in-person worship but that is not what she wants to talk about. Not at all.
While the risk of coronavirus spread is the major concern right now, LifeWay Christian Resources is urging leaders to use their reopening plans as a chance to also revisit their policies to prevent sexual abuse.  
Who is LifeWay Christian Resources? Why do they want churches to look again at sexual abuse policies? Why now? Good questions.

Fowler tells the story of a church that makes sure to "pay attention to new faces." That sounds friendly, doesn't it? They noticed a new face, learned his name, looked him up and found him on the registry.
The church had a plan in place for cases like his, developed based on conversations with the local alderman, police officials, and other church leaders. Tony Silker, an associate pastor at the Christian and Missionary Alliance congregation, had a conversation with the man on his next visit, explaining what they found. Silker said he could not return; if he did, the staff would call the police. [My emphasis...but the church seems happy to emphasize this, too.]
So much for "friendly." 
Silker gave the man information about another church in the neighborhood that ministers to people struggling with sexual addiction and urged him to get the support he needed.

The staff at Family Empowerment Center are trained to interact with registered sex offenders because they expect sex offenders to enter their church.
Remember that interact with means to tell them not to come back to church. 
The church works with the homeless and other vulnerable populations in the high-crime crevices of the neighborhood.
Does the church leadership ever wonder why they regularly find registrants among the homeless? Do they realize that government statutes and ordinances are what drive registrants into homelessness? Do they care enough to demand changes so that this vulnerable population--a population they seem to pay attention to--can find decent housing? 

Fowler writes:
Boz Tchividjian, a lawyer and the founder of Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment (GRACE), suggests obtaining the offender’s court file, talking to the parole officer assigned to the case, and verifying whatever the sex offender tells the church leadership.
Not just a lawyer; a former prosecutor. (I wrote about him and his advice here.) 

The Godly Response not to Abuse in a Christian Environment but to someone who wants to attend church is to obtain the court file...just like Jesus always did?
Tchividjian said the way sex offenders talk about the crimes they committed can reveal the state of their heart and if they are ready to participate in worship or ministry.

“If they marginalize and minimize their behavior, [the sex offender is] not in a position to even be served,” he said.
Not even to be served? Oh, my God. They know not what they do.
“If you get to the point where the person is sorry and an open book, that’s a different story. They are teachable.”
They are teachable...as long as they talk about their past in a way that is acceptable to someone who insists on ignoring all the evidence that people on the registry rarely reoffend with another sex offense.

The Christianity Today article has more stories about churches who turn away registrants. Fowler quotes Rob Showers, a church law advisor for a different CT publication:
“Only the churches that can delve in and get good legal counsel that walks through this should undertake it,” Showers said. “It’s a wonderful ministry that can go wrong in so many ways.”
Boy, isn't that the truth? Reaching out to people yearning for connection with church is a wonderful ministry. The part that goes wrong in so many ways is the refusal of churches to look at the wealth of research available that could help them welcome people to their congregation.

If Megan Fowler had done just the tiniest bit of research, she would have found that people on the registry are not the ones committing sex crimes in churches. No, those crimes are committed by people who are not on the registry. Are there exceptions? Of course. Those are the stories that make the big headlines precisely because they are so rare.

The other part that goes wrong in so many ways is illustrated by Fowler's article: lots and lots of talk about keeping registrants away from church but not a word about preventing sexual abuse.

By focusing on registrants, attention is taken away from those people who are molesting or assaulting people. 

Oh, yes...those questions about LifeWay. Who are they and what is their interest?

LifeWay sells background checks. They sell a lot of background checks, according to their own website:
From 2009 to 2019, more than 20,000 customers have conducted more than 416,000 screenings through the program, according to Jennie Morris of LifeWay. “On average, we add 150 customers a month,” she said.
Businesses across the country are permanently closing because the pandemic has reduced their business so drastically. The pandemic probably has a similar effect on a business that sells background checks to churches at a time when churches are no longer meeting in person.

A good guess is that LifeWay is tired of losing business and is spreading fear of people sexually abusing kids at church, now that churches are beginning to open up again. 

While child sexual abuse at churches and schools has certainly been reduced by eliminating in-person activities, sexual abuse is still occurring where it has always occurred most often: in the home. 




__________

I have written previously about how churches treat people on the sex offender registry:





Tuesday, July 14, 2020

added--a list of resources

Notes from the Handbasket now offers a list of resources that may be useful to those traversing the rough territory of the registry. On your mobile device, click the arrow to the right of Home and select NEW! Resources, an Incomplete List. On your computer, under Pages to the right, click the Resources link.

As the page title says, this is an incomplete list. You are welcome to add other resources in the comments below or in the comments for the Resources page.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Black Lives Matter

Black lives matter. Absolutely. People of color are disproportionately represented at all phases of the criminal justice system: interactions with law enforcement, arrests, jail, prison, probation and parole. Recognizing that truth ought to lead us to make changes that will result in fair, proportional treatment.

We’ve known that truth for decades and yet here we are, mourning another death of another black man at the hands of police.

So why have we not seen reforms?

The simplistic response is to blame racism but racism alone doesn’t make it possible for cops to kill a man in broad daylight, with the death recorded and seen around the world, and not face consequences. 

Racism with power is the explanation.

Without the power to act with impunity, law enforcement officers would be much less likely to treat people with such aggression and hostility. The racists we encounter in our daily lives--neighbors, co-workers, family--are extremely unlikely to kill someone just because of skin color. Racism can show itself in other damaging ways but most racists cannot kill without being held accountable.

Law enforcement officers can. What gives them that power? The doctrine of qualified immunity, for one.

An article in The Appeal explains:

That doctrine has become one of the chief ways in which law enforcement avoids accountability for misconduct and…even proven constitutional violations. Ordinary people—whether they’re doctors, lawyers, or construction workers—are expected to follow the law. If they violate someone else’s legal rights, they can be sued and required to pay for the injuries they’ve caused.

Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, public officials are held to a much lower standard. They can be held accountable only insofar as they violate rights that are “clearly established” in light of existing case law. This standard shields law enforcement, in particular, from innumerable constitutional violations each year.

Qualified immunity permits law enforcement and other government officials to violate people’s constitutional rights with virtual impunity. Today, we hear about police shooting after police shooting where officers are rarely if ever held accountable by the criminal legal system, either because prosecutors decline to charge, because grand juries decline to indict, or because juries decline to convict.

In Minneapolis, the four police officers involved in George Floyd's death were all fired the same day Floyd was killed. At first glance, that looks like progress...a police department that has had enough of overly aggressive cops.

History, though, shows us that firing bad cops is not a sure thing.

In Omaha NE, June 2017, Zachary BearHeels, in the midst of a mental health crisis, was tasered a dozen times by one of the police officers who were called to help him. Another officer punched BearHeels 13 times in 15 seconds. Bearheels died after those assaults. 

There was video, and Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer fired the four cops involved in BearHeels' death. The city breathed a sigh of relief and gratitude that Schmaderer saw things clearly.

Three years later? Three of those cops are back on the force, thanks to efforts by the Omaha Police Officers’ Association, the police union. The Omaha World-Herald reports,
All three will receive back pay since they were fired, minus any income they may have earned in that time, in den Bosch said. Those amounts have not been calculated yet. McClarty’s payment will have 20 days — the length of the suspension period imposed by the arbitrators — taken out of his back pay.

In a statement, Schmaderer said it is time to move forward.

“Omaha police officers have a very difficult job and my focus is on keeping my officers safe in the coronavirus environment while simultaneously protecting the city,” he said.

Tony Conner, the president of the police union, said the process was fair and that “every American citizen has the right to due process, including any police officer.”
In addition to qualified immunity, law enforcement officers have powerful unions to protect their jobs. In a USA Today opinion piece, former union official Benjamin Sachs explains:
Among the many outrages in the death of George Floyd is this one: Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed Floyd, had been the subject of at least 17 misconduct complaints and yet he remained an armed member of the Minneapolis Police Department. How does that happen? Part of the answer is the collective bargaining agreement reached between the police department and Chauvin’s union.

Like other such police agreements, the one in Minneapolis gives cops extraordinary protection from discipline for violent conduct. It mandates a 48-hour waiting period before any officer accused of such conduct can be interviewed, a common delay and a luxury not afforded even to criminal suspects and one that allows officers time to develop a strategy to avoid accountability.

Like many police contracts, including those in Baltimore, Chicago and Washington, D.C., the Minneapolis agreement also requires the expungement of police disciplinary records after a certain amount of time.
When people call for an end to police unions or a limit to their bargaining power, this is why.

There are other elements that lead to overly aggressive and violent policing, including the militarization of America's police as detailed in the Radley Balko book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop. Look at the armored vehicles used against protesters in the current demonstrations and riots across the country. Look at the riot gear. Look at how those military tools are used against young protesters.

Something is wrong with policing in this country. Police assume a warrior attitude of cops vs citizen, even though they are sworn to protect and serve the community.

Until we make changes that will hold law enforcement officers accountable to their communities, the vulnerable in our communities will pay for our lack of will to push for change.

The cry to "defund the police" is one that puzzles some people--generally people who work from the assumption that the cops are here to deal with criminals for us. Defunding police departments--or reducing the law enforcement budget--would  force those departments to rework their priorities. Can they do more with less? Can they do without spending money on ever more advanced riot gear? Can they operate without flashy surveillance equipment? 

The combination of over-criminalization and over-policing is not found in every neighborhood. Some of us live where police officers come to the block party carrying beer. Others live where cops cruise the neighborhood waiting to arrest someone. Big difference.

Until people can see that some communities suffer from over-policing, they will continue to think that those communities have more criminals and that's why so many of those families have a loved one who is incarcerated. 

And that is where racism shows up: the willingness to believe that people of that race or that neighborhood are inherently worse than we are. 

When the power of the state is brought to bear against an individual like George Floyd, a list of people convicted of a certain category of crime, a neighborhood or a demonstration, we had better make sure that we have a way to fight that power. When the state puts policies in place that prevent us from holding the state--law enforcement--responsible for its crimes and misdeeds, the power of the state is magnified. Magnified power is hard to destroy.

We must demand change to reduce that power.

Yes. Black lives matter. They matter enough this time to cause riots. Are we listening? Are we watching? Are we demanding changes that will decrease the power of law enforcement? 


 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Omaha registrant murdered

Edited May 23. After a conversation in which I was critical of people jumping to conclusions when, really, very little is known in the Condoluci case, I went back to check my own earlier assumptions. In this blog post, I wrote as if I knew for sure that Fairbanks had written the email even though I don't know that for a fact.

Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Those of us who have seen the criminal justice system in action understand clearly that mistakes are made too frequently for comfort. We must demand a scrupulous adherence to due process in this case because that is what we would demand for ourselves.

I left the blog post as originally written, with this note to explain my error. I did change the title from Omaha man murdered because he was on the registry to Omaha registrant murdered.

***

This is a big story, not just because reporters must love having something other than the coronavirus to talk about, but because it illuminates the truth about the sex offense registry: It puts registrants and their families in danger and protects no one. It didn't protect Matt Condoluci's 5-year-old victim because Condoluci was not on the registry when he committed that 1994 crime. It didn't protect another victim when Condoluci was on the registry in 2007.

You know who else it didn't protect? Matt Condoluci. From everything we think we know now, he was murdered because he was listed on the registry.

I'm going to recap (with links!) for people who were listening to great music or reading a book instead of following the news over the last couple of days.

Saturday, May 16, 64-year-old Matt Condoluci's body was found at his home at 43rd and Pinkney Street in Omaha NE. Monday, we learned that someone had emailed news outlets claiming to have killed Condoluci because he learned that Condoluci was on the sex offense registry for raping children.

Tuesday, James Fairbanks turned himself in to the police for the murder and stories started flying. Fairbanks' ex-wife said he confessed to her that he had done it; she said he is such a great guy, even the part about him murdering a stranger isn't too bad.
https://www.ketv.com/article/ex-wife-says-suspect-told-her-he-killed-sex-offender-calls-him-protector-who-cared-for-victimized-kids/32598125

The ex-wife, Kelly Tamayo, a psychologist, explained that in Fairbanks' work as a corrections officer, he...
...may have been driven to kill by working with pedophiles while he was employed by the prison system. ... I think he reflected on his experiences working with them as just bothersome and upsetting because they are repeat offenders, we know them to be people who, you know, who repeatedly act out their intent or they act on their wishes that are to harm children." https://metro.co.uk/2020/05/19/vigilante-shot-child-sex-predator-dead-saw-leering-children-12729140 
To be fair, Tamayo's work is in weight loss and  mental fitness, not in therapy for those who committed sex offenses. She ought to be forgiven for not knowing that repeat offenses are very rare among those on the registry.

Condoluci's daughter was interviewed and she said kids are safer now that her dad is dead.

Reporters did a little work and found that Fairbanks' ex-wife who gave such a glowing report of him had actually taken out two protection orders on him while they were going through a divorce. There is also a report of him threatening to kill a family friend.

Reporters also found Condoluci's son, who said his dad's crimes were a long time ago and his dad had changed since then. He said that Fairbanks didn't know his dad and his dad should not have died the way he did.

In his confession [see my May 23 note above] as represented on the Omaha Scanner webpage, Fairbanks said he "stumbled across" Condoluci's registry information; he agonized about it for days, and came back to kill him. He said he agonized because Condoluci was a child rapist. Never mind that the registry did not report any rape convictions for Condoluci.

Fairbanks goes on to say that he "researched him more" and learned that Condoluci had molested kids in several states. Then he mentions the mother of the 1994 victim and her Facebook group dedicated to letting the world know that Condoluci was a bad, bad man. In a post in the Facebook group, she says, "This preditor preys on single mother's to get his hands on her children. He moves from state to state. He must be stopped." 
The Facebook group was called Matt Condoluci (preditor)

At least, that is what it was called until she renamed it Free James Fairbanks today.

She seems to feel quite strongly about James Fairbanks. On the Free James Fairbanks Facebook page, she says,
I do not believe James was acting as a vigilante. I believe he had seen enough of the wreckage sexual abuse causes and may have felt helpless and "snapped" when he saw what he saw. He is as much a victim as my son and the other children he is not a vigilante. I don't know him but from what I am seening of him he is a good man and may be suffering from PTSD though I'm not a Dr. This man deserves our support. 
This mother endured the death of her son (the 1994 victim) from a drug overdose in 2017 and held Condoluci responsible for that death because of the early molestation. We can certainly sympathize with any parent who endures the death of a child.

Perhaps the fact that both her son and Fairbanks were corrections officers has something to do with her strong support of a man she never met. Perhaps it was just that she wanted Condoluci dead and Fairbanks made that happen. Who knows?

It is surprising that in the area where Fairbanks was looking for an apartment, 96 registrants live within a one mile radius around Condoluci's home, yet Fairbanks picks out the one guy who has a Facebook group dedicated to calling him out as a child molester. 

This story has many twists in it and the news media is making the most of it. News reports love to show the playground equipment in Condoluci's backyard as if it says anything about the man's intentions...as if none of us have rented a home with something in the backyard that is more trouble to move than to leave in place. They like to repeat Fairbanks' fantasy about what Condoluci was thinking while he watched children play. 

They like to explore Condoluci's criminal background as if it has any bearing on why he was murdered by a stranger.

Under all the twists and the lurid imaginings, though, is the truth:
The registry was used to target a law-abiding man for murder.

It is beyond time to acknowledge what the registry does--put people in danger--and abolish the registry.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

County Attorney has a chance to slow the spread of the coronavirus

Nebraska's Douglas County Prosecutor's office is faced with the opportunity to model good public health practices.

From a March 30 KETV story:
A prosecutor in the Douglas County Attorney's Office has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine....
Friday, the prosecutor got a call ... saying someone he was working closely with had tested positive. [The prosecutor] been at work for more than a week. Kleine said the prosecutor had contact with at least 25 people in the office. He'd also been in courtrooms on nearly every floor of the courthouse. 
"Defense attorneys, bailiffs, judges, even defendants that might have been in the courtroom while he was there are all being notified,” Kleine said.
Even defendants. Um...thanks for noticing?

March 12, the Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice announced  that courts will continue to operate as usual and even though Governor Ricketts limited gatherings to ten or fewer, courts were excluded from the 10-person limit.

From an Omaha World-Herald article:
Courthouse crowds became more sparse as presiding judges of a few counties, including Douglas, imposed more restrictions than the chief justice had, delaying jury trials and encouraging attorneys and litigants to either delay hearings or appear by video or teleconference. 
Even so, the Douglas County Courthouse, while quiet by normal standards, has been brimming with dozens of attorneys, litigants, clerks, sheriff’s deputies and security personnel who have to check all courthouse-goers. 
Sounds like a great way to spread the coronavirus.

Crowds, small or large, at a courthouse are not a static group. People come in and out of the courthouse all day. Some leave to go home, others are taken to prison or jail. The comings and goings are excellent vectors for the virus.

An assisted living facility in nearby Blair NE closed for a deep cleaning after ten residents tested positive for the virus, reminding us how easily the virus spreads in environments where people are close together.

Like the courthouse. Like jails and prisons.

The World-Herald continues,
“When it starts hitting close to home, it really makes a difference,” Kleine said. “We’re obviously thinking of him. And we’re going to work with the Health Department to track every place that he’s been in the courthouse as we try to make sure everyone’s fears are allayed.”
But will he delay prosecutions to make sure everyone's fears are allayed? Or will he continue to require people to appear at the courthouse?

Will he continue to send people to prison? Remember how quickly the virus spread among the residents at the Blair assisted living facility and think how much more quickly it would spread in Nebraska's overcrowded prisons.

That's the big question. Did Douglas County Attorney Kleine learn enough when it started hitting close to home?

Is his home confined to the prosecutor's office or is his home the community?






Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sex Offense Litigation and Policy Resource Center statement on COVID-19

The Offense Litigation and Policy Resource Center (SOLPRC) at Mitchell Hamline School of Law issued a statement March 28 about sex offense registries at a time when social distancing is essential to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The information in this statement can be used to craft your own letter to your governor, attorney general, legislators, law enforcement agencies--anyone who needs to understand the issues here.


From the statement:

Suspend in-person registration requirements. Registration requires frequent in-person visits to police stations or jails, where dozens of people commonly congregate in waiting rooms or bullpens, multiplying the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Following the lead of Oregon and other jurisdictions, this process should be modified. 
People on the registry are not immune to this virus. If they contract the virus because of registry laws, they will carry the virus everywhere they go, no matter how clear the need is to employ social distancing, no matter how badly registrants themselves want to avoid contracting or carrying the virus.
Waive or suspend housing banishment laws and other housing restrictions. People experiencing homelessness need emergency housing in order to comply with stay-at-home orders or self-quarantine. But many people listed on “homeless registries” have places they could otherwise reside: housing restrictions alone caused their homelessness. Likewise, prisons have backlogs of people incarcerated past their release dates, or who would be released on parole or probation supervision, if so much housing were not barred. Suspending these restrictions will allow cities to house people more efficiently, conserve emergency beds, and give prison officials the flexibility to place people in homes they already have available. This will protect their populations from the heightened risk of contagion created by needless incarceration and homeless encampments when there are safe available homes for people on the registries. 
Using the imagined danger of registrants living too close to children, legislators passed laws forbidding registrants from living in some areas. Those laws create a disadvantage for the whole community, keeping shelters full when there is a need to put more people in homeless shelters--during bitter winter storms, blazing summer heat, or when it is necessary to slow the spread of a virus. Legislators created this problem.
Waive or suspend arrests and prosecutions for failure-to-comply offenses. “Failure to comply” charges are the result of a missed deadline to reregister or update registration. Akin to technical parole violations, these are often hyper-technicalities that stem from the difficulty of following so many onerous reporting requirements, and have no reported correlation to public safety. Despite this, they contribute to jail and prison churn, risking increased transmission of the virus.
When over-incarceration is clearly something that burdens the United States, incarcerating people because they did not report to law enforcement that their address and employment and vehicles have not changed is ridiculous. At a time when the world is trying to slow the spread of a new virus, is is dangerous to add to overcrowded prisons.
Suspend fees for registration. Economists are projecting 14%-20% GDP contraction for this quarter and unemployment in double-digit rates. Many people have already lost their incomes as a result of the shutdowns. People with past convictions are far more likely to be poor, with reduced job prospects. Non-payment of these fees can result in failure-to-comply charges; during this crisis registration fees should be suspended.
Siphoning money from the pockets of the poor is outrageous. When the response to that statement is that those people committed sex crimes so they deserve it, it becomes abundantly clear--again--that the registry is commonly considered to be punishment, no matter how often courts deny that fact.
Suspend in-person address verifications. Routine police visits to the addresses of people listed on registries, for the sole purpose of an address check, should be suspended. These visits are widespread, and number in the tens of thousands. At a time when even 911 calls are under stress, law enforcement should be able to redirect their resources as needed. 
Sending cops door-to-door to make sure registrants live where they claim to live is a bizarre choice even when there is no threat of carrying a new virus door-to-door. When these compliance checks make headlines in the evening news broadcast, look around to see if there is a reason law enforcement agencies are trying to look pro-active. Using law-abiding people as props in an attempt to buff up the image of law enforcement or the tough-on-crime image of and elected official is despicable.
Suspend Internet access restrictions. Some people who are on probation or parole are forbidden from accessing wide swaths of the Internet, and some states have laws limiting Internet access for people listed on a conviction registry. During this crisis, access to the Internet has become even more critical: nearly everyone must rely on Internet access for work, news, homeschooling, services, and family connections. Individual safety, as well as public health compliance, requires timely online access to crucial information about social and health services, as well as access to medical services that are moving online. 
Because news about the virus and public health recommendations can change so quickly, no one should be forbidden to stay current with news and health guidance.
“Step down” people in civil commitment. More than 6,000 people are locked post-sentence in prison-like state civil commitment facilities, that pose the same coronavirus dangers to staff and detainees as jails and prisons. States should speed up “step-down” procedures and move people into supervised community settings.
People in civil commitment facilities have lost their liberty without due process. To leave them where they are essentially defenseless against a fast-spreading illness is cruel.

The registry does not protect anyone and it puts registrants and their families at risk of public humiliation, increased contact with law enforcement, and now, COVID-19. Write to anyone who can influence how registry laws are implemented and let them know the many reasons they should make changes during emergencies.

If you quote from the SOLPRC statement, make sure to include a link to the statement itself (https://mitchellhamline.edu/sex-offense-litigation-policy/wp-content/uploads/sites/61/2020/03/SOLPRC-COVID-19-Guidance-March-28-1.pdf).

Friday, March 27, 2020

reducing the spread of COVID-19 in federal prisons

Attorney General William Barr in a press conference and an interview with ABC News, talked about the fears of COVID-19 spreading inside federal prisons. The fears are warranted. We have already seen the virus moving quickly through other closely-housed populations such as nursing homes.
"You want to make sure that our institutions don't become petri dishes and it spreads rapidly through a particular institution," Barr said on Thursday. "But we have the protocols that are designed to stop it and we are using all the tools we have to protect the inmates."
Having "all the protocols" is meant to reassure us that the Bureau of Prisons is on top of this threat to community health. Are prison staff and their families are reassured by that? The unions for correctional officers are worried.

ABC News continues:
He added that "one of the those tools will be identifying vulnerable prisoners who would make more sense to allow to go home to finish their confinement."
Home confinement for vulnerable prisoners does make sense. The BOP already has a way to release those who are elderly or have a terminal illness: compassionate release. Why not release inmates to their families and reduce the prison population, slowing the spread of the virus?
Barr said that of the 146,000 inmates currently serving time in federal prison facilities, one third are believed to have pre-existing medical conditions and roughly 10,000 are over the age of 60 years old.
Would the BOP actually release 10,000 inmates? Until the 2018 First Step Act increased the number to around 100, an average of a dozen inmates were granted compassionate release each year, so it doesn't seem likely.

ABC News:
...Barr stressed that there would be significant limits on what would make prisoners eligible for release to home confinement, noting that they could not be convicted of violent crimes or sex offenses -- which makes up roughly 40% of the over-60 population.
What is he doing here? Is he talking about reducing the spread of the virus or not? The virus spreads as easily to those convicted of violent crimes or sex offenses, and just as easily from those people to the prison staff and back out to the community.
In response to some local and state prisons across the U.S. who have opted to release inmates in prisons and jails in large numbers, Barr said he was concerned about those using the coronavirus simply as a vehicle to de-populate prisons around the U.S.
He isn't talking about the virus here. He responds to questions about the virus by talking about protecting the prison system.

In the meantime, we continue paying to incarcerate 146,000 people in federal prison, including the increasing costs of health care for elderly inmates.

Only time will tell.