Wednesday, July 18, 2007

That'll Show Us

In the East Texas Review, writer Cynthia Hall Clements was stunned to watch judicial proceedings involving a 23 year old man who'd been arrested numerous times on petty offenses. She concludes:
The state of Texas is wasting its resources on this guy. We’ve arrested him “34 times.” He’s had countless motions before the court, numerous trials, and lived in county jail and the Texas Department of Corrections for a good part of the past five years, not including his juvenile delinquencies and time spent for them.

For the amount Texas taxpayers have spent on processing this young man through various encounters with the system, he likely could have attended community college, or a technical school to learn a vocation, also paid for by us.

“But some people just don’t want to help themselves,” I hear the eye-for-an-eye crowd clamoring, eager for blood —sometimes literally — and retribution. Fine. Let’s just continue to pay for prison for this guy until the legal players change, until he’s broken and thoroughly defeated in and by life, and then we’ll release him. We’ll still be supporting him, however, through Medicaid and food stamps.

That’ll show him. Or will it show us?

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not from the “eye-for-an-eye” crowd. Yet, I do understand some of our fellow citizens live and play in an underground community of drugs and violence. Most do not hold jobs, pay taxes, or finish high school. The reality, regardless of what feel’s good program someone is trying to peddle, some who walk amongst us do not care. A lot of money is to be had by illegal activity. It is easier for some to steal than go to work. These are our textbook criminals. Sending a career criminal to college or a trade school sounds wonderful. Where do I sign up to support the effort? I wonder how long he or she will last? Will the school be one more victim under his or her belt? My rose colored glasses are off. Those who want help and want to change can be afforded many opportunities around most communities. Many government, volunteer, and non-profit agencies do offer help. It may require the person getting up in the morning, not living from place to place, and not staying out all night running the streets. Most need life skills counseling and the will to change. I have never heard of a grant written to change the will of a person. This is going to have to come from the person’s own desire to change and those influencing his negative behavior.

The jails are busting out of its seams because we still have not changed the desire for most to stop committing crimes. A great deal of our tax money is going to county, state, and federal subsidized treatment clinics, job training, and anti-drug programs. Our societal views have deteriorated and tolerated more in this decade than decades before. One could blame it on television, mental illnesses, single-family households, lack of family and school discipline, economic factors, or drug addiction. Our lack of moral fiber has perpetuated the crisis of the explosion of crime in the United States. Minimizing or decriminalizing criminal behavior will not be the magic pill to resolve these issues. I believe changing our current value system of tolerance for anything goes will be the first step to lowering recidivism rates.

How do you convince a career criminal to do the right thing when no one is looking? The answer is more complex than the question. Our free-will nature gives each of us an option. Should it be the responsibility of society to hold the hand of those who do not wish to play fair in the sandbox? I wonder if more jails can be the solution, or are we looking in the wrong direction? Our focus has been strictly treatment based since jails or prisons do not discourage the drug and violent culture. I wonder since our rose colored glasses are removed from our blood-shot eyes; maybe we should place our eyes on a set of binoculars focusing on our poisonous media culture. The last few years of MTV and cable media outlets have brought to our homes not only an over-saturation of shock TV, it has conditioned the minds of our younger generation to a point of dismal apathy of right or wrong. It would be a refreshing change to see responsible leadership within the media tyrants moving to a less impulsive direction poisoning those who are not strong enough to turn the source off, to more of a civic-minded direction motivating those to change and live in a responsible way and not glamorize crime and drugs.

B

Anonymous said...

Um...

Preach on my [B]rotha and the people shall be fed.

You can buy a person shoes but you can't make the person wear them. That person has to choose the shoes.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me Anon 11:56 - exactly where are all these treatment programs you speak about? Especially in East Texas? You state that a great deal of our tax money is going to them - oh, really? I don't see it. What I do see is more and more of my tax dollars being poured into building more and more prisons that do little more than breed greater criminality. Do you realize how much of your tax dollars are going into the cesspool that is the prison system? Get a grip!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"should it be the responsibility of society to hold the hand of those who do not wish to play fair in the sandbox?"

Isn't that what prison is? 24-7 handholding?

Also, there is not an "explosion of crime in the United States." There is an explosion of incarceration. Murder, rape, ag assault, robbery and burglary are all down from a decade ago. See the per 100,000 stats here (scroll down for rates instead of raw #s).

Anonymous said...

"You can buy a person shoes but you can't make the person wear them."

Or you can do what we do here in Texas, which is to say, "We WOULD buy this person shoes but they're savages and the probably wouldn't wear them even if we did, so we won't bother."

I'll bet nobody ever offered to pay for that kid to go to college, ever, so the condescension from anon whose lost their rose colored glasses sounds small minded to me, and maybe even a little bit disingenuous.

Finally, almost all entertainment now is crime based. I don't know why, but it's true. I agree that's part of the problem. What can be done about that?

Anonymous said...

Scott,

Read the BJS stats. "Reported" Violent crimes such as murder, rape, robbery are up in Texas.. . Per 100,000 is lower, What about the unreported crimes and the underground society peddling meth or "brown, ice, etc" Can you watch the news in major urban areas and say the crime rates have dropped or have we just simply given up watching? What is an acceptable number to you?

As to the 1:07 Anon writer, look at the plethora of knowledge on the internet. Go to Grants.gov and many other sources for communities. It will take time and effort by you. Charter schools throughout the country began with the same problems. Great ideas and no funds. Look at the large numbers today. Prisons are a needed to house all those who simply did not get it. An offender who is "finally" sent to prison will either have a very serious record or serious crime. it takes a lot for one to qualify in this "cesspool" country club.
Getting a grip is not the point. Moving to a responsible society of responsible media, positive mentors in our schools, churches, and workplaces, build stronger family bonds that promote values should be our goals. I want my tax dollars going to prison bed space in order to keep those who are really habitual and violent criminals out of my neighborhood and away from my family.

Nobody said anything about the lifeskills? I liked this idea!

B

Gritsforbreakfast said...

B, if you're getting your crime information from local news, no wonder you're opinion is skewed! The line "If it bleeds it leads" is tossed around like a joke in the TV broadcast media. They're intentionally overdramatizing the worst of the worst to scare the crap out of you so you'll keep watching.

Also, as far as crime's effect on people's daily lives, it's the per 100,000 number that matters, especially given Texas' dramatic population growth. Context is everything when interpreting statistics, and if you don't account for skyrocketing population growth, then it's misleading to look at aggregate crime and say it's going up, IMO. best,

Anonymous said...

Um...

Preach on my [B]rotha and the people shall be fed.

You can buy a person shoes but you can't make the person wear them. That person has to choose the shoes.

GFB, those index crimes do not include drug crimes and IMO, therein lies the skyrocketing of crime.

IWTS said...

This story leaves out the most important part. What was the defendant charged with?

If we are going to use criminal justice resources on anyone it should be on those who victim others, not themselves.

Instead of using tax dollars for prisons or welfare state programs I vote for returning the tax dollars and ending encarceration for consensual victimless crimes.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@IWTS, It was in the linked ETR article: the "young black man, barely 23 years old, was in county jail in a small East Texas town awaiting his second trial on narcotics possession. In this case, it was crack cocaine with intent to deliver in a drug free school zone, some 200 yards from a neighborhood Head Start program."

Anonymous said...

"In this case, it was crack cocaine with intent to deliver in a drug free school zone, some 200 yards from a neighborhood Head Start program."

I will never understand the position you are taking that says not only should we allow this behavior (because ultimately it is "our" fault), we should pay for him to go to college. That is outrageous.

How about we offer this guy a one-way ticket to Siberia? That would save us money and would be much more effective at changing his behavior than stealing my money to pay for him to slack through life.

RoAN

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RoAN - since "Siberia" = "prison" in this context, it doesn't save money but costs us MUCH more to do as you suggest. That may satisfy your punitive bloodlust, but it's not by any stretch a fiscally conservative position.

Back of the napkin: $16K per year in prison, say you put him in prison for 20 years, that's $320,000 plus inflation. Send him to college for 4-5 and pay the full freight, it'd still be less. Then later in life he might CONTRIBUTE taxes. Seems like a no brainer to me.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

BTW, RoAN - never did I say we should allow this behavior, nor that it's "our fault." That's you putting words in my mouth. I said the way we're handling the problem is a) an obvious failure and b) much more expensive than the suggestion by the East Texas Review columnist.

IWTS said...

GFB-

Just read the article. What a waste of tax dollars.

That does not mean I want to pay for his college though. If I had to choose, it would be college because that is cheaper.

Bond has become an instrument of oppresion. It is a way to detain those who have been found guilty of nothing. It creats a horrible inbalance in plea bargaining power when one party can incarcerate the other.

JT Barrie said...

I remember one commercial that goes as follows: "Pay me now or pay me later". It sells an oil filter but applies here. We can subsidize everyone in society with a negative income tax and a full bodied EIC - to provide incentives for those who work. This will cost us more money than incarcerating the minority who resort to drug abuse and crime even at 20k + cost of incarceration.
However, putting this kind of subsidy to our poor folks will also stimulate economic activity and raise profits for big companies and wages for those willing to work. And if we factor in the emotional and fiscal costs of rampant crime we even come up with a dividend.
It boils down to whether we "send a message" to those we don't respect or like - or serve society's needs over our own petty dislikes.

Anonymous said...

Geez, louise. There is ZERO evidence that this guy would be contrite, would change, would go to class, would do anything EXCEPT continue to break the law.

And you want me to pay for his college because it's cheaper. Cheaper than what? Are colleges so worthless that we put the dregs of society there because it is "cheaper" in your eyes?

You say what "we" are doing isn't working. I say what "he" is doing is WRONG. And no, you didn't explicitly condone his behavior. You just implied that it is my fault that he is what he is.

And I meant what I said. Siberia, not a prison. We should put guys like this, that have PROVEN that they cannot exist amongst civil people, on an island by themselves.

RoAN

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Siberia is very nice to say, RoAN, now propose something realistic that's not just rhetorical flourish.

ladywpaint said...

Crime is big business, It rakes in profits for judges, lawyers, bondsmen and most of all Private Jails. New laws are added all the time to keep the profits rolling in. Its one of the fastest growing businesses in US, Texas alone has 1 in 20 Texans in prison,parole or probation. People farming is a commodity. I don't believe all these people were born criminals. Most of them fell through cracks in our system and its easier to leave them there when they are young and make a profit when they are older.

Anonymous said...

RoAN - you're not responsible for his behavior, you're responsible like we all are as taxpayers for paying for the jail, the police, the indigent lawyers, and everybody else that got paid each of the 34 times this guy was arrested.

Forget who's to blame: Why would you want to pay for all that when it didn't do any good? What conservative in their right mind thinks that's a good way to spend taxpayer dollars?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@8:52 - you nailed it! That's exactly my point.

Anonymous said...

"Forget who's to blame: Why would you want to pay for all that when it didn't do any good? What conservative in their right mind thinks that's a good way to spend taxpayer dollars?"

The same could be asserted about paying for college which won't do any good unless the person wants to go to school and change their criminal ways.

Incarceration is a good way to spend taxpayer dollars instead of paying for college because the general public is protected from that criminal thinking person's behavior for the length of the incarceration.

We as a society can't force people to change but we can incarcerate and protect even if it costs us more money.

Anonymous said...

Except we're trying it the way you're saying, 2:47 - arrest them lock them up, and look what happens! It keeps happening over and over and the same people recycle through the jail. There's no room for this guy in prison, particularly if you want to keep the murderers and violent types locked up. The stuff about "Siberia" is pure, Grade A crap. Plus, how do you know they guy wouldn't want to go to college? Who says so besides you? Do you really think he ever even had that chance? I don't think you guys have thought this through. If 10% of the public has arrest warrants, you can't lock up everybody.

Stop with the rhetoric. What's the solution"

Anonymous said...

Forget who's to blame: Why would you want to pay for all that when it didn't do any good? What conservative in their right mind thinks that's a good way to spend taxpayer dollars?

Nope. Not gonna happen. I'm not going to forget who's to blame (the criminal) and I'm not going to accept responsibility for his behavior.

He alone is responsible for not abiding by the laws of our society. If you and Grits want to pay for his schooling, why not take him into your home? Pay for it yourself, accept the fact the he is eventually going to turn on you and your family.

Listen guys, it isn't a bad thing to incarcerate the people of our society that simply cannot follow simple rules. Don't break the law. Once. Twice. Or thirty four times.

What you are saying is completely nonsensical. You are saying that if one should break the law, the more times they do it, the more it is my fault. Utter, total nonsense.

RoAN

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RoAN - You don't want to pay for his school, but I don't want to pay for his imprisonment, which costs much more than his schooling and clearly doesn't do anything to reduce his criminal behavior.

You're putting out a lot of rhetoric here, but not one reasonable solution except an implied prison building spree that would be much more expensive than you'd ever be willing to pay when the tax hike was proposed. You don't get to have it both ways, RoAN, though I can tell you want to.

Who's responsible for the jail: The sheriff and county commissioners, elected by taxpayers. Who's responsible for paying for cops, judges, lawyers - again the taxpayers. It's those institutions and what they do, not the defendants behavior, that the rest of society is responsible for. The fact that you and the big government liberals are willing to spend any amount on failed government programs is a sad statement about the political culture. Normally those guys are your nemesis, but here you and the most liberal Dems have the same solution - a massive, endlessly growing government nanny state. Heaven knows why.

Anonymous said...

Heaven knows why.

I'm sure that heaven does know why. I'm just as sure that the victims of his crimes know why. I'm just as sure that the children at the school he was pushing his dope in know why.

Grits, I've no idea why you picked this thug to be a poster boy for your cause. There are any number of criminals out there that could benefit from your tears. This one cannot.

Did you even read the story? Or just the headline and ending sentence?

Did you miss the point about a mistrial because his family intimidated the jury? Or his arrest for marijuana possession while he was out on bail in the first place? Or that the 34 arrests don't include his juvie crimes? Or that he never bothered to get a job in his ENTIRE life?

You have really lost it man. Maybe take a break from this stuff for awhile. This clown should be locked up and the key tossed until HE decides to change. Society cannot force him to change. And yeah, I'd rather have my money taken from me to pay for that versus having my money taken from me to pay for his continuing criminal lifestyle.

RoAN

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RoAN - You're fixated on the end result of a failed process and want to accuse me of defending it. I'm not. I'm interested in how the entire process worked and the history and causes of how we got to this point. This guy is just one of thousands. What should be done about them? Locking them all up has been the answer for three decades and now the system is bloated, out of control and its exponential growth can't be sustained any longer on a practical level.

This guy's not my poster boy for anything positive, he's an example of why what you're proposing won't work! You say incarcerate him till he changes his ways, but there's little evidence from his history (and the examples of MANY others) that the tactic will do what you say.

Meanwhile, y'all have been justly championing the cause at the LoneStar Times to keep a murderer in prison, but the reason his parole was even being considered was PRECISELY to make room for low-level nonviolent offenders like this guy. You pick: Who would you rather have on the streets? You can't incarcerate everybody, as much as you'd like to. That's why I'm so focused on Grits with strengthening probation and community supervision - what you propose is fiscally and practically untenable.

For my part, I want to know what the courts and law enforcement can do differently so that first and second time offenders don't, down the line, wind up on their 34th arrest.

You seem to think every case should be handled the way each of this guy's 34 arrests were handled and everything will be just dandy, there's nothing that could have been done differently by anybody and he's the only one who's to blame. Given how much tax dollars have been wasted on the guy, to me that's an obvious joke. You also seem to think there's nothing to learn from this fellow's story - I think if we don't understand what interventions work and which ones don't, we'll just have MANY more like him. best,

Anonymous said...

Oooh! He smoked pot while out on bail? By all means, then let's give him the chair!

This ROAN guy is right - we definitely need to fill up prisons with pot smokers and crack heads then we'll all be safer. I'm sure the victims of the murderers, rapists and sex offenders who are paroled to make room for him won't mind!

Anonymous said...

to make room for low-level nonviolent offenders like this guy

There is the difference. You consider a guy that refuses to conform to society, the refuses to work, that sells crack to school children a low-level, non-violent offender.

I say that you are totally wrong. This is exactly the type of guy that needs to be incarcerated. Let out the guy that was busted for a blunt. Let out the gal that sold her body. Lock scum like this up. They have proven by their actions that they do not deserve and are not worthy of wasting your very well written work on. You do a great job and I keep telling you that.

Why waste it on someone like this?

Oh, and anon 9:46, laugh away but I guarantee you that the victims of this guys poison will appreciate him being locked up.

Low-level, non-violent my ass.

RoAN

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RoAN: Who said he sold crack to schoolchildren? They said he was 200 yards from a Head Start program. And it's worth mentioning that often police use CIs to intentionally make busts within those boundaries so they can enhance the penalties. It's not like they're marked. If he'd sold drugs to kids it would be a different charge. (There are more than 2,300 to choose from, after all.)

Oh, and assuming the drug dealing allegations are true, the "victims of this guys poison" don't want him locked up. They are volitional purchasers engaging in free market transactions, albeit black market ones. Those aren't "victims" in the same sense as rapes, murders and sex offenses have victims, even if your rhetoric would have it so.

But my biggest beef with your comments, bottom line, is that your disdain is not matched by reasonable, implementable suggestions for what to do instead. This isn't about sympathy - that's you attributing sentiments based on your own stereotypes. No one is crying for this fellow, least of all me. But the criminal justice system must decide how to handle his misbehavior nonetheless. You provide plenty of anger, but literally no suggested solution but "send him to Siberia." I think that's probably where the conversation should have ended, because your discussion is now occurring on a fantasy plane where government pockets are endlessly deep, where incarceration reduces recidivism, and where prisons and jails can find plenty of people to work as guards. None of it's true, so I don't know how to talk to you further about it. Give me something real to respond to besides your loathing for lawbreakers. We get that already, but what should be done about it?

Anonymous said...

Trust me, for a lot of these little thugs making them crack a book or ten, much less pass school courses, would be the harshest sentence you could give them. They don't care about going to jail that much, but learning takes discipline.

Anonymous said...

Damn you are hard headed. I gave you the solution. Let the low-level offenders out. Incarcerate people like this guy, it is worth the money, in fact it is a cost savings to society.

You can't see that because it doesn't fit your paradigm. Your paradigm says that selling crack down the street from a Head Start program is non-violent. Hogwash. How the heck are those kids going to get a Head Start having to duck and hide from trash like this?

Treatment programs for first time offenders. Solid treatment, not what is being offered in many cases today. Second offenders also get treatment, after 90 days of hard and I do mean hard labor. Third and subsequent offenders get a year's hard labor and must show evidence of a turn about in their behavior by going through treatment again - if no turn, more hard labor.

See, those are real solutions. They are some namby pamby, pie in the sky crap put out by those who want to blame me for the problems of society.

Anon, I do my part to help people change and will be glad to take you with me to show you the devastation that this poison inflicts up on innocent children.

RoAN

Anonymous said...

Your paradigm says that selling crack down the street from a Head Start program is non-violent. Hogwash. How the heck are those kids going to get a Head Start having to duck and hide from trash like this?

With alcohol the way they stop that is to make it legal and heavily regulate it so it can only be sold to adults and they can control where it's sold. Wouldn't that solve all your problems, ROAN? Otherwise, where's the violence?

Altar Boy said...

"Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven."

- Matthew 18:21-22.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:07, you can't be serious comparing crack cocaine to alcohol. Alcohol is a terrible drug for some, no question about. Crack cocaine is a killer. It's attitudes like yours that keep the circle going.

altar boy, taking the Bible out of context doesn't solve the problem. Do I forgive them? Sure, seventy times seven. Forgiveness NEVER takes away the consequences of sin. You will not find that in the Bible, even taken out of context.

RoAN

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RoAN, you write: "Forgiveness NEVER takes away the consequences of sin. You will not find that in the Bible, even taken out of context."

Actually, I think that's completely wrong, both textually and the theologically. Think of Jesus and the woman of ill repute who was about to receive the standard punishment of the day for her crimes - stoning. Jesus stopped the punishment, though it was justified by law, telling those who had judged her 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Paul told the Romans. Christians receive salvation by God's grace, not because they abstained from sin. God's forgiveness means Christians don't suffer the consequences of their sin - that idea is the foundational basis of mainstream Christianity.

Also, please take a look at the entire passage referenced by altar boy in Matthew and please explain why the seventy times seven quote is out of context. I thought it was right on point. best,

Anonymous said...

This is anon 2:07. ROANY, baby, please, let's talk about this aversion to reality you developed over the course of this blog. Are you seeing anyone about it?

Crack is a killer? Man, I don't know what you're smoking but alcohol's far worse. See these stats. Alcohol is a much worse killer and cigarettes are worse than that. but it's a lot easier to keep those away from kids because they're legal and regulated so the beer companies and Phillip Morris instead of the street thugs control the business.

Markets are more powerful than governments. Welcome to Free Market Economics 101!

Anonymous said...

God's forgiveness means Christians don't suffer the consequences of their sin - that idea is the foundational basis of mainstream Christianity.

That foundational basis has to do with reconciliation to the Father, again you are taking liberty with context. Yes, Jesus stopped the stoning but the woman was not relieved of the burdens that she carried for her prior sinful actions.

The thief on the cross was forgiven but still punished with death for his earthly sins.

If people would actually read the Bible and listen to the message, the world would be a different place.

You need to learn to separate the spiritual from the worldly if you wish to quote the Bible. It is a message of pure love, certainly not a success formula for escaping punishment for your transgressions.

RoAN

Anonymous said...

Good grief, anon 6:57, you have to be kidding. You are going to use aggregate death stats? Let me ask you something. If the population as a whole used equal amounts of crack cocaine and alcohol, how do you think that chart would read?

You know how. Get a grip and face reality. Alcohol is a terrible drug and I never said otherwise. Ask me where I think someone with 34 arrests for DWI should be.

Crack cocaine is a far, far more addictive and destructive. Haven't been around too many crackheads, have you?

At some point, you intellectual types need to put your boots on and get out of the library.

RoAN

Gritsforbreakfast said...

In other words, RoAN, you're saying forgiveness is great in theory but unnecessary in practice. I don't buy it. As Jesus' brother James wrote, faith without works is dead. If you believe in forgiveness, you practice it, doing unto others as you would hope your heavenly father will ultimately do for you.

And in your response to my example of the woman Jesus kept from being punished, what in the world does it mean that "the woman was not relieved of the burdens that she carried for her prior sinful actions." That she would feel guilty? If anyone else said that punishment was enough you'd say it was "namby pamby pie in the sky crap." Or am I missing something?

Finally, though you didn't address it, I've re-read Matthew 18 in it's entirety several times this evening, and think it's exactly on point. In fact, in verses 15-16 he references requiring 2 or 3 witnesses, which is a direct referent to Mosaic criminal law. It's not out of context at all to say the verses altarboy quoted should inform a Christian perspective on criminal justice, IMO - certainly not just because you said so. I continue to think it's pretty much on point. best,

Anonymous said...

College? The writer assumes the young man has a high school degree. Huge assumption.

Here's reality: a helping organization where I volunteer here in East Texas offers GED classes, free. Even when the students are substance-free, have transportation, and really want that degree -- and even with a well-qualified teacher for every 3-4 students -- it's dicey.

Offer a 34-time offender free GED classes. You'll probably have to incarcerate him just to reliably find him, get him clean, and get him to GED class. Will you pay for that?