09/27/08 — Keys to the jail: Until root factors are addressed, we all end up paying

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Keys to the jail: Until root factors are addressed, we all end up paying

The Wayne County Jail is full.

In fact, it is overflowing.

Big news, right? Like this is the first time we have heard this lament.

So why this time is it more important than ever to pay closer attention?

The answer centers around your wallet -- and dealing with the cause not the symptom.

More inmates means more people who are turning to lives of crime rather than functioning as contributing members of society.

They will not pay taxes, raise healthy families or otherwise become part of making this a better community.

In fact, in the long run, they will cost you money.

Who do you think is paying their bills for food, shelter and medical care?

Who do you think will take care of the families they leave behind and
the next generation of children they create with nothing but poor role
models to follow?

This year's jail population also has a number of murder defendants --
young, dangerous and waiting for their day in court -- on your dime.
Where do you think they learned how to live their lives with violence
and dishonesty as their watchwords?

That's the bad news.

Now, what's the solution?

Tougher laws, yes. Quicker turnaround on all cases, yes. Stiffer
sentences for repeat offenders and scared straight approaches for
juvenile offenders -- absolutely.

But the root of this problem figures prominently in issues this
community and others like it are facing around the country -- and it
really is about more than just law and order.

It starts with personal responsibility and moves on through opportunity and achievement.

Quality schools that offer remedial programs and alternatives for
students who do not tend toward the academic do more than just improve
the reputation of a school district. They show teens a whole new world
with possibilities for success. They give them choices other than
drugs, crime and jail. They teach them industry and responsibility and
give them a trade on which to build a future.

It is why so many people want to see technical and vocational education
as part of the Wayne County School District curriculum -- and more money
placed in programs that provide alternatives to traditional classrooms.
That is the best way to keep more teens who are on the bubble in school
and off welfare.

So, we have to demand more of these children -- in spite of their
parents and environments. And while we are at it, we should hold their
parents and guardians responsible for their actions -- and in many
cases, for their neglect. Time served for being lousy parents might be
just the incentive some people need to think twice before having
another baby.

Laws and judges should support identifying juvenile offenders before
they become hardened criminals and forcing education, psychiatric help,
tutors, regular report cards, whatever it takes. A high school diploma
could be a much more effective sentence than time served.

Wayne County cannot ignore the overflow at the jail. There will have to
be a solution -- and it will cost money, your money. Addressing the
factors that create the supply will take care of some of the future

Vocational education might not solve the problem, but it would be a start.

Published in Editorials on September 27, 2008 10:56 PM