CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Two of the 52 state inmates released early by court order aimed at stopping COVID-19 from spreading through the prison are already in trouble with the law again.
And while all 52 had been within 90 days of completing sentences for non-violent offenses, a review of their records shows several had served time for violent crimes and other felonies in the past.
R.I. Attorney General Peter Nerohna said deciding who got out early was focused on maintaining public safety outside the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) while also addressing health concerns about the virus spreading through the prison’s congregate living settting.
“So we’re trying to strike a balance, somewhere in the middle that makes sense and has some credibility, protects public safety, protects public health,” Neronha said. “But it’s not perfect.”
One example of that — Joshua Olsen, 21, who was released about six weeks early, has since been charged with felony shoplifting in Coventry, Warwick and North Providence.
Olsen’s criminal record starts in 2007, when he was charged with 1st degree robbery by Providence police.
Casey Regimbal, 26, got out of the ACI on April 7, three days short of his scheduled release for making a false 9-1-1 call. He was arrested last week by North Kingstown police on five charges after he allegedly swung a sword at a woman while yelling, “I’m going to kill you.”
Regimbal’s record dates back nearly five years and includes felony assault, breaking and entering and misdemeanor domestic violence/vandalism charges.
Neronha pointed out even without the early release order, Regimbal would have been out before he was arrested for the crime in North Kingstown.
“There’s a guy who got out and didn’t do the right thing,” Neronha said. “But he was in there for a low-level crime. You try to make your decisions based on the information you have.”
Christopher Kidd, 37, who was released about six weeks early from a larceny conviction, has a 20-year long record that includes convictions for felony assault in 2019 in Providence and felony drug possesion in 2014 in West Warwick.
Albert Jacques, 61, with a recent prison bid for shoplifting set to expire at the end of May, was first arrested in 1978 and has since served time for breaking and entering, assault of a victim over 60 and several other crimes.
Josue Baldayac, 29, was released about a week early from a sentence for obstructing an officer, and has a long record that includes open felony charges. One of those cases involves an indictment last September on two counts of first degree child molestation and one count of second degree child molestation.
Neronha said while the inmates’ records were examined closely, the focus was on “their most recent contact with the criminal justice system.”
He also emphasized all but about 25 of the prisoners in the ACI are getting out at some point.
“Whether you’ve got 15 things on your record, or whether you’ve got three, everybody’s getting out,” Neronha said. “The question was are they more of a risk today than they are going to be in a week or two.”
He said his office fought to pare down the original list of more than 200 prisoners who could have been released early.
Registered sex offenders and anyone named in active no-contact orders were not eligible for early release, Neronha said.
R.I. Department of Corrections spokesman J.R. Ventura has not yet provided details about how releasing 52 of the ACI’s estimated 2,500 inmates is expected to impact the potential spread of COVID-19 at the facility.
Ventura said 10 staff members, including several correctional officers have tested positive for the virus, but so far there are no confirmed cases among the inmate population.
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