Like many other states, Florida has implemented its own strategy to deal with its inmate population during the COVID-19 pandemic. Outside of prison walls, people are being told to stay home, social distance, rigorously wash their hands, and wear face masks if they interact with the public. Inside, precautions are reportedly being taken, but a few inmates are finding themselves with early release dates. Some, like Tekashi 6ix9ine, have been allowed to serve out their sentences at home. Others, like YNW Melly who also reported contracted COVID-19, are forced to remain behind bars.
Joseph Williams, a 26-year-old man from Florida, was reportedly arrested back on March 13. He faced charges associated with drug possession, and six days after he was taken into custody, he was released to help hinder the spread of coronavirus. According to authorities, it only took 24 hours for Williams to be rearrested as a suspect in a homicide.
Gunshots were heard in a Tampa neighborhood on March 20 and when police arrived at the scene, they found a deceased man. An investigation led authorities to Joseph Williams who is now being held without bond. Williams is facing charges of second-degree murder, felon in possession of a firearm, and resisting an officer, along with his previous drug possession and drug paraphernalia charges.
“There is no question Joseph Williams took advantage of this health emergency to commit crimes while he was out of jail awaiting resolution of a low-level, non-violent offense,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “Every murder, every violent crime, especially those involving a gun, is a sickening example of the worst in our community, especially at a time when our community is working relentlessly to fight against the spread of this deadly COVID-19.”
“Judges, prosecutors, and Sheriffs around the country are facing difficult decisions during this health crisis with respect to balancing public health and public safety,” said Chronister. “Sheriffs in Florida and throughout our country have released non-violent, low-level offenders to protect our deputies and the jail population from an outbreak.”