A recent push by prison officials has seen overcrowded jails across the country releasing their non-violent drug offenders back into their communities early. The move is intended to allow those offenders a chance to improve their lives rather than simply sitting in jail, but it has set off alarms for overwhelmed police departments nationwide.
In Richmond, Virginia, earlier this month, crowds of demonstrators gathered to demonstrate and offer support for the 10,000 federal prisoners that will be released over the next month in Virginia as a part of the national release. Among them was Oludare Ogunde, a Richmond citizen who is all too familiar with life in prison.
Ogunde spent most of the last 18 years in prison due to credit card related charges that continued to circle back on him. He felt as if he never received help for his problems but was instead just sent to prison and labeled a bad person. He and other supporters of the prisoner release believe that allowing them to reenter society will help them to overcome their issues better than being punished with prison sentences will.
Law enforcement officials concerns are related to appropriately reintroducing those prisoners into society. Halfway houses and probation officers are not equipped to handle such a large mass of people and some officers believe that it could lead to potentially dangerous individuals being reintroduced into the general public.
“Are there axes to grind? Are there debts to settle?” said the executive director of Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Dana Schrad. Schrad’s concern about potential retaliation over past grudges is a real one. Generally, that kind of behavior is identified by probation officers or in halfway houses before anyone can be harmed. It remains to be seen whether or not law enforcement officials nationwide will be able to handle the influx. Nonetheless, they are preparing as best as they can for the coming surge, and talented law enforcement professionals nationwide will be doing everything they can to make sure the transition goes smoothly.