On Sunday, a recently released felon named Tanaij Wells shot up a 24-hour are festival in Trenton, NJ. Wells had been released from prison after serving time for “homicide-related charges.” Seventeen people were wounded, five were injured in the ensuing stampede and one, Wells, is dead. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, wasted no time blaming guns for the Trenton Art All Night festival shootings.
We awoke to news of a mass shooting right here in Trenton.
Art All Night is a time when we all come together. We cannot let gun violence tear us apart.
These are not inappropriate times to talk about gun policy. These are the most important times to talk about gun policy. pic.twitter.com/EJtM7iLOPN
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) June 17, 2018
That Mr Murphy would blame guns rather than criminals is hardly unexpected; that’s what Democrats do these days. Fox News noted that Governor Murphy supports shorter sentences for criminals, and the Trenton shooter, Tahaji Wells, was the beneficiary of a ‘shorter sentence,’ in that he was released from prison early. Had he not been paroled, he couldn’t have shot up the Trenton festival, because he would still have been behind bars. Perhaps Governor Murphy’s notion of shorter sentences is the wrong idea?
The problem isn’t gun control, or any lack thereof; the problem is that when the state has criminals in custody, they are treated too leniently, and released too early. From the Fox News story:
Murphy has decried the sentencing and incarceration of people throughout his campaign and time in office as part of his criminal justice reform agenda, which includes a review of sentencing laws in the state.
The governor’s efforts weren’t just promises, as earlier this year he resurrected the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission created in 2009, which never actually held any meetings due to former state Gov. Chris Christie’s reluctance to appoint any members.
“We can and must do better,” Murphy said in a statement announcing the restart of the commission. “A Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission can undertake the important review of our sentencing laws and recommend reforms necessary to ensure a stronger, fairer and more just state.”
But it seems that Governor Murphy didn’t want to actually do much to reduce recidivism:
Another key promise of Murphy was to “expand re-entry services, so that the people coming out of prison have the support they need to return to productive lives” – a measure that should have supposedly prevented Wells’ shooting spree.
Yet, Murphy slashed all the money from a prisoner reentry program that was created by his fellow Democratic Party colleagues, NJ.com reported. The program provided training and helped former prisoners to find jobs and claimed it reduced recidivism rates.
Now, what could have prevented Tahaji Wells from obtaining a firearm illegally, and shooting up a festival because he was angry at another gang-banger? Keeping him in prison for his previous crimes would have accomplished that!
Mr Wells was convicted of aggravated manslaughter in 2004, and sentenced to 18 years in the state penitentiary. That sentence alone should have kept him behind bars until 2022.
And in 2010, while still in prison, Wells was sentenced to six additional years after pleading guilty to a second-degree racketeering charge. He reportedly helped a gang leader run the group from inside prison.
Six more years should have kept him locked up until 2028, unless the sentence was set to run concurrently rather than consecutively. Why anyone would think that sentencing a prisoner to an additional term to run concurrently with his existing sentence would be any sort of punishment or deterrent is beyond my poor ability to grasp.
Yet Mr Wells was paroled in February of this year.
Clearly, committing other felonies while in prison does not seem to constitute good behavior. Why was Mr Wells released early?
As is usual, we aren’t told who took the decision to release Mr Wells early, or even if there was any choice in the matter under New Jersey law. If there was no choice but to release Mr Wells early, then the legislature needs to address that. If there was a choice, then the parole board members who looked at his record need to be identified and held accountable for their actions. They need to be publicly shamed, they need to be fired, and the victims of Mr Wells’ actions need to sue them into penury. If the judge who allowed Mr Wells in prison conviction sentence to be run concurrently rather than consecutively had any choice in the matter, he needs to be publicly shamed, driven from office, and sued into penury.
Of course, public officials are shielded from such lawsuits, but they shouldn’t be. When a considered decision for leniency leaves people wounded, perhaps permanently handicapped, or dead, then the officials who took that decision should be held accountable for the consequences of their decision. If that was done, we wouldn’t be seeing instances of violent criminals being released early, we wouldn’t see idiotic judges handing down minimal sentences for serious felonies, and we wouldn’t be reading stories about men who should have still been locked up shooting into crowds.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.