11/21/07 — Full jails a sign: Obviously something isn’t working in corrections

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Full jails a sign: Obviously something isn’t working in corrections

You hear a story a day that reads something like this: “(Insert name of city here) is considering what to do about a jail that is overflowing.”

The concern occurs in large and small communities and in rural and metropolitan areas.

And it doesn’t take long to fill a jail either. One area facility is already near capacity after only three years of operation — and an expansion.

So, the question remains, what is the answer to handling what seem to be increasing crime and an ever-expanding inmate population?

It is obviously not “build more jails.”

When a problem presents itself like this, the first step is to analyze the root cause.

And in this case, the answer is pretty easy: There are more and more criminals every year because there seem to be more and more people who do not understand the consequences of their actions and have no regard for the rules of polite society.

While the easy answer is just to continue to build prisons and jails to house them, that application is simply not practical. There is only so much available land not only in this state, but in others as well.

So, what is the next step? Well, to reduce the number of young people who turn to lives of crime would be a start — and some of that work is going on already.

There are hundreds of crimes committed each year by young people in this community — or adults who launched their lives of crime years ago.

If we could reach more of those youths earlier, perhaps we could help them change their lives before they start a pattern of incarceration and reoffending.

It won’t stop the problem overnight, but at least it would be better than approving another jail expansion.

Published in Editorials on November 21, 2007 10:33 AM