Debate of sorts.....feeling?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Star*, Feb 6, 2009.

  1. Star*

    Star* call 911

    Here in SC there is a debate going on amongst legislators and professors of criminology. There is a debate headed for the legislature and it's very interesting.

    One side, Henry McCaster states that he feels that ALL criminals in SC should absolutely serve 85% of their sentence before they are eligible for any sort of parole or services.

    The other side has a University of SC criminology professor stating that if you put a fraction of the monies into rehabilation and middle court (or non-violent offender programs) the recidivism is markedly less. Yet law makers want to enact this proposal and pass it into law.

    If the former wins - this will probably increase our current inmate population by roughly 6,000 in a year and double that in 2 years. In order to accomplish their goal and send a message to all offenders that there IS no debate, there IS no second chance and basically abolish the parole system? They would have to build 5 jails in the next 3 years. This group feels that if you send a message that ABSOLUTELY without a DOUBT you offend? YOU ARE GOING TO JAIL FOR at least 85% of your term. NO more pleas. While it's true SC builds the cheapest jails in the country is this plausable?

    If the latter opinion remains at large these programs that have been the first to GO due to the recession now would get more money pumped into them so that repeat offenders are retrained, rehoused and more programs would be out there to help these folks.

    I heard this today and really it has sparked a statewide debate. I signed a petition to allow felony offenders a clean slate with x amt. of years with no repeats so that they could get jobs. It's one of the top 5 reasons our homeless population is out of control. People get out of jail, and they either aren't offered any viable solutions to help them become better citizens or they are left to a crumbling and overburdened system that is antiquated and not adept in dealing with todays problems. Keep in mind crack has been around a while but wasn't an epidemic in the 60's and 70's, but ffwd to the 80's and now you have people who were jailed for 20 years getting out and they have NO idea what's about to happen to them in a modern world.

    If this is not an appropriate topic for here - then mods feel free to delete but I'm just curious about others logic on this.

    To me - on one hand there never should have BEEN the namby pamby court allowance of pleas. You do the crime you do the time and had that STAYED in place? I think the population of prisons would be less than it is today.

    Since it WASN'T and then lawmakers really (in my humble opinion) made quite the mess out of our court, jails and prison systems - is it too late to go back to this and if it does? Are you scared for your difficult child's?

    Just wondering.
  2. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    I'll see where this goes, Star. I'm a bit leary about it, but I'll let it run for now.
  3. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Both programs are going to cost taxpayers a lot of money. That being said, I believe that rehabilitation and treatment should always be the goal, especially for non-violent offenders. I don't like the idea of simply building more correctional facilities to warehouse people. I think the money would be better spent on mental health assessment and treatment, literacy, and getting the offender out of the system and integrated back into the community whenever possible. Obviously, there are some who would not be candidates, but there are a LOT of people who would be.

    And at another level, there needs to be better mental health services and supports for younger people in at-risk communities so they don't end up in jail in the first place. I know there's been talk about putting more mental health screening programs and supports in the elementary, middle and high schools to help people earlier BEFORE they get into they system.

    It's certainly a complex problem.
  4. mom_to_3

    mom_to_3 Active Member

    There is so very much to consider here. Star and gcvmom, I agree with a lot of what you have said. Here are a couple more idea's............... I honestly believe that a big portion of our "criminals" have mental health issue's of some sort. Even if we had services available at no cost to them, are they going to be willing to participate? We all have seen with our own loved ones many times, that for the long haul, they're just not that into medications and therapy. How could we enforce this? Is it even possible?

    You were a brave soul Star, signing that petition that would allow felony offenders a clean slate with x amt. of years with no repeats so that they could get jobs. I'll be the first to admit that I would be afraid for either myself or my daughters to work along side, rapists and murders, etc. We've had problems with the non convicted types already, much less anyone that shows a known propensity towards these behaviors.

    I think maybe there could be some sort of creative thinking that would be able to afford these people work, as I understand they just can't get ahead of the game, if there is no opportunity for them to succeed.

    A very complex problem indeed, I'm interested in reading further replies.
  5. eekysign

    eekysign New Member

    Toughie. I've got a friend serving a 7 year sentence--good friend, too, this kid was like my little brother growing up. Had to be---his dad was AWOL and his mom was a total hippie crackpot, who never should have been allowed sole custody with-o supports in place. I fed him, I took care of his cuts and bruises, I drove him out of his rural home on the weekends....from the time I was 15-16 on.

    He literally grew up feral. He was a SWEET kid, but mentally never healthy. Never mean, or intentionally cruel, never violent, but almost universally inappropriate, and borderline psychopathic. He had never, ever learned how to connect to other human beings, and when he did, it was usually not "normal". I was one of a handful of non-internet-based friends he had. He's now in prison, for basically not knowing how to behave appropriately in society. Don't wanna go into it any more than that.

    I just can't support any criminal justice system that can look at my friend, or any of our difficult children, and think, "Oh, they KNEW what they were doing, and knew it was wrong. So jail for them!". My friend may know wrong from right, but he doesn't CARE....especially when feeling strong emotions. Wrong and right just aren't internalized for a lot of our difficult children.....when they get tired, or worked up, or ANYthing goes awry, wrong and right go out the window. It takes a lot of psychiatric rehab, medications, and HOPE to get that changed, if it ever does. I think my friend needs years of psychiatric hospital intensive counseling....not prison. But I don't see that happening. Our country doesn't like the taste of "helping bad people"---even if it's to everyone's benefit that they be helped.

    Lord knows, I'd rather a violent ex-con have a decent job and therapy and support when s/he gets out of prison, rather than nothing (AND have spent more time in there with the 85% sentence fulfillment). 'Cause everyone needs something to live right FOR. Watching my stepbrother bounce between state psychiatric hospital and the local police station 'cause they'd just release him every time, to no REAL support structure, taught me that! :)

    Just my two cents.
  6. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Until our grandson was labeled "a felon" my husband and I (both with some education, avid readers and generally considered well informed) thought that felons were murderers, rapists etc. with a few dangerous others tossed into the mix. We truly did not know that 16, 17, 18 and 19 year olds were being labeled felons for totally non-violent minor drug issues etc. Really. We also believed in the simple concept of good guys and bad guys. The court system subdivided those people. :redface:

    We were unbelieveably naive. Maybe we were just blessed that non of our family members were ever caught with pot etc. when we raised the first six teens! Oh yeah, we also believed that the Judges were trained to judge. We didn't know that many Judges so strongly favored the States Attorneys and we absolutely did not realize that Legislators would ever be able to enact "blanket laws" the prevent the qualified judges from doing their job to benefit the population.

    So.....I don't believe in the Legislature usurping the division of powers that sets the Judicial system apart from the Executive and Legislative branch. I do believe that common sense shows that building more and more prisons for more and more non-violent prisoners only builds the power of law enforcement to the detriment of social services. In side by side articles in the newspaper today there was an article showing the increase in the prison population adjacent to a big article about the cut in funding for the disabled in our state. It is sad and scarey, in my humble opinion. DDD
  7. 'Chelle

    'Chelle Active Member

    I don't see how keeping people in jail will make the changes he hopes. I think that serving even more time in prison will only make it harder for a person to succeed in society once they are released. They will have been out of the workforce longer, add that to a prison record, and even more employers will be reluctant to hire them. I believe it's been shown that the longer a person is an inmate, the harder it is to adjust to living outside the regulated prison life. Not to mention the only people to associate with are other criminals. The younger they go in and the longer they stay, the more they learn about how to be a better criminal. Then not to mention the cost of keeping a person in prison, from some quick reading on the net, ranges from about $2500 to $5000 per month, while they spend about $5 per month on parole. It was admitted on one site that the parole system stinks and it's mostly how much they (don't) spend on the system. As I see it, the costs would only rise keeping a person in prison longer. in my opinion it would make more sense to spend even 1/2 of what they'd spend on keeping the inmate incarcerated on better parole and rehab services. The chance of the inmate changing and making a sucessful life in society would be better for the money spent, and therefore less chance of them reoffending. I just don't see that making longer terms would work. I don't think how long a prison sentence you could get goes through their minds when they commit an offence, especially with younger people. It's only a factor once they get caught. Perhaps it would make them work harder at not getting caught.
  8. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    As the mom of a felon, I have seen his struggle to rise above the idiocy of his youth and drug induced brain. He has never been violent---at least not to anything living---and he was only partly guilty-----

    But, I think having that charge---and having to face the trials he faced changed him more than anything else we had tried.

    It's really hard to determine what is right. I don't like a blanket policy that covers everyone any more than I would hold a Learning Disability (LD) student to the same academic accountability that I would hold an honors student----

    But I also don't won't first time sexual/violent offenders let off with a slap on the wrist.
  9. skeeter

    skeeter New Member

    husband and I do a lot of volunteering for our community. We are member of Citizens on Patrol, and Problem Oriented Policing, and husband does Court Watch (where they follow those convicted of crimes in our neighborhood, or those that live in our neighborhood, through the system).

    "Historically" there have been several reasons for incarceration - rehabilitation, prevention, punishment, and to protect society. With a 70% recidivism rate here, I think everyone can say rehabilition doesn't work. Going to jail is not seen as a threat OR a punishment for many - in fact, they'd rather go to jail for 6 months than have community control for 2 years.

    That means the ONLY reason for incarceration is to protect society.

    And that does NOT mean incarcerating those that have non-violent offense, psychological issues (that would be better treated in other ways), etc.

    However, we have no other options.

    The year before last we were asked to be a part of a tax initiative called a "comprehensive safety plan". Yes, there was to be money set aside to build a new jail - but that's because one of ours (that is now closed and we lost 800 beds when it did so) was a 100 year old factory that was falling apart. There was also a lot of money that was going to go to things such as reintroduction to society (one plan was a training certificate that the person would earn for future employment options), psychological and drug treatments, juvenile prevention, etc.

    It also wasn't a lot as far as taxes go. It was a sales tax, half cent for 8 years, 1/4 cent for 7 years, then it would be taken off - it could not be renewed.

    The opposition (and believe me, I'm against taxes as much as the next person) grabbed ahold of the "jail" portion (it became know as the jail tax) and managed to get it defeated.

    Our county is broke, but by law has to have a balanced budget. Because of all the state and federal mandates that MUST be funded, the only area that the county really has any say so over is safety and Jobs and Family Services. Several hundred at J&FS have lost jobs. Over 100 deputies have been let go. One of our jails has been closed. We have one in house treatment facility left. Trying to keep track of those on community control is impossible.

    husband fights constantly for psychological treatment for some of our "guys" - we know they aren't really criminals, they need help. But there is no where for them to go. They continue to self medicate, and then get into trouble.

    I don't know what the answers are. We've been involved in this for about 5 years now, and it gets harder and harder. One of our "guys" was murdered in February, less than 2 weeks after he was released from jail. He was 19.
  10. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Having family members in the penal system...........

    I can see both sides of the debate. One side wants to play "tough love" hoping stiffer sentences will be a deterant. The other wants to treat the "issues" of some inmates in hopes of rehabilitation and less repeat offenses.

    I have one nephew who most likely would have benefited from treatment for his bipolar had it been offered his first time in prison at 17. None such was offered where he was at the time. By his 2nd stint in prison.....almost halfway thru his sentence someone finally decided to listen. My nephew started treatment. But by then, although it did drastically help his moods ect, his "mind-set" on the world and how it works was warped. This nephew was paroled 8 months ago. No one will hire him because he is a felon. A twice convicted felon.

    My other nephew is now serving a long sentence for attempted bank robbery. (idiot) My brother did all he could with this kid to get him on the straight and narrow. And this nephew.....well if he has a mental illness he's mighty good about not showing symptoms. He is, however, lazy and determined to get money the "easy" way. This one would not benefit from any sort of rehab services I don't think. (I may be wrong)

    A cousin of mine turned out to be a "lifer". He didn't have a life sentence....he would just get paroled and do something that would wind him back inside. Honestly, I think it is because all of his sentences were long enough he felt like he was returning to a different world.

    My brother in law was in for a year over a stupid choice when he was young. That was enough for him and he never got into trouble with the law again. He got sent to a medication scurity prison on that first offense. He equaled it to being in *ell for a year.

    The first proposal I don't know if it would work. Certainly I get mad when someone can kill someone and be walking the streets 5 yrs later. Personally, I don't think those that do violent crimes should be released. (my opinion) But adding more time...don't see how that's going to do much.

    Treatment would be good for those who need it and may cause a drop in repeat offenders. IF they keep services available for them upon release and find a way to ease them back into society.

    Yet I am more for getting those persons treatment and services before they wind up in the system to begin with. My sister begged for services for older nephew for years and got nothing. She tried everything and it all fell on deaf ears.

    Oh. I also think many prison facilities have become a little to cushy these days. Cable tv, internet, stereos, gyms. I realize inmates have to have something to do....but geez many places inmates are living better than I am.:faint:

    Oh, and younger nephews attitude about going to prison........So? I get 3 meals a day and live high on the hog for how ever many years they give me. Sad part of that was he wasn't too far off the mark.

    The so many others......needs an overhaul. But it needs to be a problem they really work on before making a decision.
  11. Star*

    Star* call 911

    The petition I signed did not release ALL felons. Just wanted to clear that up. It was supposed to be (thinking) 15 or 20 years clean and you could apply for expongement. Anything that was considered a violent crime was not blanketed under it's writing. I'm also the victim of a sexually violent crime, so I would never even consider that a "get out of jail free" deal.

    This was written for those that were convicted of non-violent crimes. ANd I almost didn't sign it because it said non-violent crimes like drug abuse. My life and Dude's life were turned upside down and inside out by drugs and it was ALL violent - so I have to really watch how I phrase myself regarding drug crimes. They interviewed a lot of homeless men who wanted help and would go and were going to AA or NA and they said that they stole and did stupid stuff that got them a felony lable. Now 20 years later? They're older and more mellow, haven't reoffended in years and would like a chance to work instead of being homeless.

    Hope this clears up any misconceptions or omissions I made........
  12. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    As kind of an 'insider' to the prison system, I can see both sides. When something happens, everyone is so quick to say 'lock them up and throw away the key'! But apparently they have never done the math to see how the prison population would multiply if they did this. Most states are in very deep financial trouble as it is and can barely afford to operate the prison systems that they have, much less to have their inmate population increase by leaps and bounds! Prisons are ungodly expensive to build, maintain and staff. It costs an unbelievable amount of money to house, feed, clothe and provide medical care for each inmate every year, much less any attempt at 'rehabilation'. To make it even worse, here at least, they are making cuts to mental health programs that might have kept some of them out of prison to start with.

    Quite honestly, I don't think the threat of increasing the length of time they would be required to do would have much of an affect. What might have an affect would be to know FOR SURE that certain offenses would be 100% certain to do significant time instead of the seemingly endless probations that some seem to get. They essentially know that nothing will really happen to them so they do it again and again and again. The inmates we have where I work, from maximum security down to trustees, I really don't think the threat of a longer sentence would have kept many of them from doing what they did to get there. I'm not sure of the statistics but I would be willing to bet that at least 50% of them are there because of drugs - either selling them, because of something they did while under the influence of drugs, or something they did to get the money to buy drugs! And by the same token, I do NOT agree with the 'three strikes' sentencing so popular today ... someone could end up doing a life sentence for something relatively minor.

    And I also do NOT agree with having mandatory life sentences for many crimes, even murder. You can't lump them all together. On one hand you have the ones that have no regard for human life at all, the gang members, the ones who rob and then kill the victim so they won't be identified. But there are others, decent people who were pushed to their limit and then snapped. I see guys every day who are doing life or very long sentences and no one gains anything at all by them still being in prison. We have some who made one horrible mistake when they were very young ... today they aren't even the same person they were then. They grew up, they matured, they mellowed out, maybe they overcame drugs or alcohol. They would do very well and have much to offer on the outside, but it will never happen.

    Here in Tennessee they say that our rate of recidivism has actually gone down slightly since they began pre-release programs several years ago to prepare them for life on the outside and to help them find a job - not easy these days. Of course, with all the budget problems in the state, these programs could end up being cut too!
  13. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    If they can be rehabilitated, I'm for that. We have 1 in 100 citizens in prison right now and that's nuts. Plus expensive.
  14. muttmeister

    muttmeister Well-Known Member

    I read somewhere that in the United States we have a larger per capita prison population than any other country in the civilized world. Somehow, that doesn't seem right.

    I definitely think we need to differentiate between non-violent stupid criminals and those who pose a real, bodily threat. For those convicted of non-violent crimes, locking them up and throwing away the key seems like a waste of our money and their possibilities. While we may not ALL be guilty of things that would send us to prison, we probably are all guilty of making some stupid choices that could have gotten us into big trouble. Some of us were lucky enough not to get caught or to have something happen that taught us a lesson and we turned out OK. Labeling somebody with a prison conviction and keeping them incarcerated for a long period of time pretty much insures that they will have little opportunity when they get out and that those who have families will probably end up being supported by the rest of us. I realize that some people will not be rehabilitated but I'm not willing to throw away the chances of those who will in order to make a point to those who won't.

    Add to that the fact that a lot of our prison inmates have mental issues and/or are substance abusers. The country I live in (my ideal USA) would not throw those people away without trying to help them.

    It seem that if we should have learned anything from what we've been doing it is that locking people up, ignoring them, and then releasing them at a later date does not work. The dollar costs of providing mental health care, rehabilitation programs, and education to inmates, while high, is probably much less than keeping them locked up for years and then turning them loose for a short period of time, only to have them return.

    I fully believe that you shouldn't do the crime if you don't want to do the time BUT I also believe in second chances. I don't believe our goal should be to keep non-violent offenders locked up; I believe it should be to do what we need to do to help them see the error of their ways and go on to live a useful and productive life.
  15. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    If you don't mind a 2nd post on this important Mutt says there are lots of people who way "if you don't want the time, then don't do the crime". on the other hand all of us know that impulse control is not fully developed in a teen mind. If you substitute "if you don't want the baby, then don't have sex", it becomes readily apparent that young people are more likely to make choices with-o full adult analysis. The frontal lobe leads them to enjoy the pleasure of booze, or drugs...or sex. A bunch of us were bright law-abiding citizens who decided to "do the dirty" before marriage and ended up getting married younger than anticipated. I don't see too darn much difference. DDD

    PS: I know a man (whom I don't care for, by the way) who is a registered sex offender because he had sex with his brother's girlfriend who testified she was raped. He went to prison...she went back to Puerto Rico with her reputation intact. He is not listed as a "predator" but he is listed as an
    offender and has to register every time he moves AND is included in the public warnings with others on "sexual offenders in your neightborhood". Do I like him? No. Would I trust him to babysit the kids? Yes. Law enforcement didn't even put him on probation when he was released. He is not a threat to any child...and I'm personally convinced he is not a threat to any adult either BUT he is an "offender" for life. He, too, has difficulty getting a decent job.
  16. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    The inequalities of the 'system' is one of the things I find so frustrating. Not to stand up for 'sex offenders' but many of the ones we have, especially the older ones, did nothing more than have a girlfriend a year or so too young when they were pretty much kids themselves.

    Two of our very best inmates are both murderers. Both have been in at least twenty years, both are doing life sentences. Both are extremely intelligent, well educated, well respected, and very good workers with responsible positions within the prison. One was involved with drugs when he was very young, in college - was along on a 'bad' drug deal where a man was killed. He, himself, was not the one that did it but all were convicted of murder. The other probably never even had a parking ticket in his whole life but then came home one day to find his wife with another man and just 'snapped'. Both are so far removed now from what happened in the past that it's a total waste of taxpayers money to keep them in prison, but both will be there until they die. If either of them were to ever be released, it wouldn't bother me in the least if they moved in next door to me!

    But for contrast ... there's been a story in the local news about a DOCTOR who was arrested for writing multiple prescriptions for narcotics in another state. Todays paper says that this DOCTOR had previously been convicted on two charges of first degree murder - killed both his wife and her mother. He served a whole FIVE YEARS, and then was released! And the medical board, in their infinite wisdom, saw fit to restore his license to practice medicine! Go figure!
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2009
  17. mom_to_3

    mom_to_3 Active Member

    I don't have much use for a doctor like that, Donna. Grr! How do you all feel about decriminalizing marijuana? What kind of affect do you think that would have in our crime statistics and prison population?
  18. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    I have never been in favor of legalizing marijuana. Why have one more potentially harmful substance become even more readiy available! And legalizing it seems to be amost the same as condoning it! I was around inthe 60's and I can't say that I never tried it, but what was around back then was nothing like it is now!

    Honestly, in twenty three years of working in the prison system, I have never seen anyone doing actual state prison time for either selling or using just marijuana! It may be in conjunction with other charges for heavier drugs, but never just for marijuana by itself. The real money is in things like cocaine and manufacturing meth. And around here, even running a meth lab isn't enough to get prison time - they are given probation over and over again!
  19. mom_to_3

    mom_to_3 Active Member

    I guess I lead a sheltered life for sure. I do remember years ago when the three strikes you're out, put many a person behind bars for a very long time. I am not a drug advocate by any means. I don't like them any more than the next person, but wonder if maybe we should be aiming to incarcerate the top dogs of the chain, not so much the small guy. I don't like drugs on our streets either, but as has been proven to us already, we are not really accomplishing what we have spent years and millions of $$ to stop, right?