Re­spon­si­ble jus­tice

The Covington News - - Opinion - Ric Latarski is a free­lance writer who writes on a va­ri­ety of topics and can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.

Even be­fore ‘ Taps’ faded from Ge­or­gia State Trooper Chad­wick LeCory’s fu­neral peo­ple were won­der­ing how Gre­gory Fa­vor, a man with an ex­ten­sive crim­i­nal record, could be out of jail to — al­legedly — per­pe­trate such an act.

No one per­son or part of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is to blame be­cause no one per­son or part is at fault.

Judges may sen­tence pro­ba­tion or grant bonds be­cause they know the jails and pris­ons are full; pa­role and pro­ba­tion of­fi­cers have caseloads so high su­per­vi­sion as the job de­mands is al­most im­pos­si­ble; pris­ons are not staffed ap­pro­pri­ately; men­tally ill peo­ple go to prison be­cause there is no al­ter­na­tive; sub­stance abuse and mental health coun­sel­ing pro­grams in prison are prac­ti­cally nonex­is­tent and we have laws passed by id­iot politi­cians who have no con­cept how they will work in the real world.

All this works in con­junc­tion and did not hap­pen all at once or overnight. Should you seek to blame some­one, ex­am­ine decades of gov­er­nors and leg­is­la­tures full of politi­cians who poked holes in the air with their fin­gers and talked about be­ing tough on crime, fol­lowed by pass­ing inane laws that are un­en­force­able, un­con­sti­tu­tional or sim­ply in­ef­fec­tive.

Then the vil­lage id­iot who knows noth­ing about how govern­ment op­er­ates gets elected by blow­ing hot air about noth­ing more than mak­ing govern­ment smaller.

In good eco­nomic times no one wants to talk about how much it costs to op­er­ate the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, in bad times it is a topic cer­tainly to be avoided. This is not just pris­ons but po­lice on the street, pro­ba­tion, pa­role and the courts.

But here’s a dirty lit­tle se­cret: prison works. Ask a pa­role or pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer who they have the least trou­ble with and the an­swer will gen­er­ally be those who have served long prison terms. These peo­ple may need more help ad­just­ing to so­ci­ety but they re­al­ize how much of their life was lost be­hind the walls and don’t want to go back.

The op­po­site of that? Thugs and punks for whom the sys­tem is a game.

A drug traf­ficker sen­tenced to 20 years and re­leased in five con­sid­ers it the cost of do­ing busi­ness and a slight in­con­ve­nience.

The young punk sen­tenced to five years and re­leased af­ter 18 months comes out smil­ing and wear­ing a prison term like a badge of honor.

One day in prison would be enough for a nor­mal per­son but these crea­tures are not nor­mal. Re­peat of­fend­ers have only one re­gret: they got caught.

Sen­tences should serve as de­ter­rents, which means when peo­ple demon­strate they have no de­sire to be any­thing but a crim­i­nal and the judge rec­og­nizes this by im­pos­ing a hefty sen­tence, it should mean some­thing.

But keep­ing peo­ple in prison is ex­pen­sive. Su­per­vis­ing con­victed felons un­der pro­ba­tion and pa­role costs money. Rehabilitation pro­grams call for fund­ing. Even the ba­sic costs of op­er­at­ing the court sys­tem con­tin­ues to rise.

Slash and burn and cut to the bone rhetoric may sound good dur­ing an elec­tion but there comes a time when those in of­fice must ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity and un­der­stand govern­ment ex­ists to pro­vide ser­vices, chief among them pub­lic safety.

No sys­tem is per­fect and un­for­tu­nately in­ci­dents such as the one that took the life of Trooper LeCory will never be elim­i­nated be­cause you are deal­ing with crim­i­nals.

But we can ex­pect those who are elected to serve the pub­lic to make cer­tain the sys­tem in place to deal with those who vic­tim­ized the pub­lic is work­ing as ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble.

This calls for more than hot air rhetoric and pok­ing holes in the air with your fin­gers.

Ric Latarski

Colum­nist

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