DUBLIN (KPIX 5) — A carjacking suspect who was arrested 35 minutes after being released from the Alameda County Jail for stealing another car is just one of many cases authorities are being faced with as the coronavirus pandemic forces the release of non-violent suspects from custody.
Across the state, jails are required to reduce their inmate population due to concerns over COVID-19.
32-year-old Rocky Lee Music was arrested around 7:50 a.m. on Sunday after police said he stole a car in Oakland.
He was released Sunday night at 7:23 p.m. on a zero bail order, which allows setting bail for $0 for non-violent felonies and misdemeanors.
“Mr. Music was afforded the emergency bail schedule and he was released,” said Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly.
Deputies say after one successful carjacking, one attempted car jacking, and a bite from a police K-9, Music was arrested again and taken back to jail for his second mug shot in the same day.
“He could steal a car every single day and be out every day. Everyone in law enforcement is very concerned about the bail schedule,” said Sgt. Kelly.
On April 13, the California Judicial Council ordered that anyone brought to jail is to be cited and released unless he or she had committed a serious or violent crime. It was an effort to reduce the inmate population to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Law enforcement agencies across the state are now releasing criminals they say should stay behind bars.
“An inmate in our custody with a prior conviction of felony child abuse and domestic violence was arrested on a new charge of felony child abuse,” said Sheriff John McMahon of San Bernardino County.
That suspect in Southern California was released and so was another repeat offender in San Joaquin County, according to Sheriff Pat Withrow.
“We have to re-release him, then we arrest him for his 7th time of stealing a vehicle,” said Sheriff Withrow.
Inmate advocates say these types cases are the exception, not the rule. They say the money saved due to a lower number of people in jail should be spent on programs to help keep people from getting arrested in the first place.
“It makes so much more sense to put those resources into the community that would keep people from going to jail in the first place or if they did cycle through the jail, to give them a possible way out of the cycle,” said Richard Speiglman, the chair of Interfaith Coalition for Justice in Our Jails, an advocacy group focused on inmates at the Alameda County Jail.
The zero-bail order will continue in each county for 90 days after the shelter in place is lifted. Law enforcement agencies are tracking crime rates to look for trends dying the emergency bail order. So far, they say it’s too early to make any conclusions about whether the reduction in inmate population will lead to an increase in crime.
As for Rocky Music, he was arraigned on Tuesday and is now being held on $100,000 bail.