The governor—or any other elected official—should not use the coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in millions of Californians losing their jobs and placed the entire state under stay-at-home orders to advance pet projects, including releasing more prison inmates. 

However, that’s exactly what Governor Gavin Newsom is doing. He is giving early release to some 3,500 convicted felons under the guise of protecting them from the coronavirus. 

This attempt by the governor is nothing more than a get-out-of-jail-free card for these convicts. 

Those familiar with Gov. Newsom are well aware of his penchant for favoring prisoners’ rights over those of victims. One of his first acts as governor in 2019 was to place a moratorium on the death penalty, an action he took despite his campaign promises to enforce it and even though voters had passed two ballot measures in November 2016 California voters voted down a measure that would have repealed the death penalty and simultaneously approved a measure to streamline it and speed up the process.

Gov. Newsom also used his office in his first two years to commute the sentences of scores of dangerous criminals. Most recently, he commuted the sentences of 10 convicted felons serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

Among them is Richard Flowers, convicted of stabbing 78-year-old Mary Garcia to death and stealing her car and jewelry. Newsom said that Flowers, 38 at the time he committed his crime and now 64, has been commended by his work supervisors in prison and has “good prospects for community re-entry.” 

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus makes social distancing an issue in prisons, but it shouldn’t be used as a backdoor means for the governor to forward one of his pet projects, releasing convicted felons out of prison early.

Californians have enough stress already over all the adverse economic, health and societal effects of the coronavirus. This is not the time for the governor to contribute to that by turning loose waves of convicted felons into our communities.