Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order yesterday late afternoon which is truly heartless and will lead to human beings being exposed to and possibly dying from COVID-19.

Executive Order GA 13 “Relating to deteion in county and municipal jails during COVID-19 disaster” suspends personal bonds, good time credit, electronic monitoring instead of jail (home confinement), and the accumulation of good time credit for people with a history of or who are currently accused of physical violence or threat of physical violence. The order also suspends the law that requires the automatic release of (any) inmate who the state is not ready to bring to trial after 90 days.

So let’s unpack this for a moment. In a time where experts across the globe are warning that jails and prisons are petri dishes for the rampant spread of COVID-19 and calling for inmates to be released to prevent a catastrophe, Texas’s governor does literally the opposite, tying the hands of counties, cities, jails, and judges to release inmates to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Not only is this wrongheaded and stupid (much like Lietenant Governor Dan Patrick’s now infamous call for grandparents to sacrifice their lives to jumpstart the economy), it’s Orwellian and frightening. Abbott did not even try to limit this draconian suspension of the law to inmates with a long history of violence or of the most violent offenses, he included people with any history of even low level assaults or threats of violence. Beyond that, he included people without a history of violence who are just accused of violence. That’s right, the Texas governor is throwing out even the appearance of a presumption of innocence with this move.

I would find this less nauseating if he was at the same time taking COVID-19 seriously by imposing a statewide stay in place order as health experts are begging him to do. Instead he’s allowing people to continue to operate as if it was business as usual while at the smae time using the pandemic he’s not taking seriously as a way to screw over people sitting in jail. This is wrong and will lead to unnecessary COVD-19 exposure and people dying – not just inmates (which is bad enough), but jailers, police officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, court staff, and all their respective families.

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