As long as there are criminals, there’ll be a need for jails. There’ll always be criminals.
In Pulaski County, the supply of criminals exceeds the jail space available to hold them. People arrested for violent crimes are kept in jail awaiting trial, but many other alleged offenders are given a citation to appear in court, then routinely released back into the community. The charges on which they are released include burglary (both residential and commercial), manufacturing or sale of drugs (such as methamphetamine), theft of property, DWI, hot check violations, failure to pay fines and fees, and failure to appear in court (many of those cited ignore the citations). To victims, these are not minor offenses, especially in the poorer neighborhoods where most crimes are committed. Furthermore, violent criminals don’t generally begin as violent criminals, but commit lesser offenses first. Keeping lesser offenders in jail means keeping potential violent offenders in jail.
Pulaski County officials propose a ¼-cent increase in the county sales and use tax to reopen 250 jail beds that were closed December 31 because of budget cuts, and add 500 new beds. The tax would amount to one penny on a $4 purchase, and would be capped at $6.25 on a $2,500 purchase. Opponents say that more money should be spent on prevention and treatment. In the long run, such expenditures might be helpful. We live in the short run. The election is Sept. 12. Early voting is under way.
Two appealing candidates seek membership on the Little Rock School Board from Zone 3, which includes Hillcrest, the Heights and the Hall High neighborhood. Carol Roddy is the more appealing.
The seat is being vacated by Bryan Day, who has endorsed Melanie Fox, a hard-working school volunteer. Roddy has the weightier endorsement of the Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association. Teachers have seen their deserved influence in school affairs weakened by a board (and superintendent) that sometimes seems more interested in union-baiting, even union-busting, than in school improvement. Roddy decided to run for the board after a particularly rancorous meeting last spring.
“I want to bring the classroom teachers back to where their voice is heard,” Roddy says. “I’m not sure right now they have been.” Roddy also disapproves of the efforts by rich businessmen to control school policy through use of their money — anonymous use, when they can get by with it. The school board has complied with the faction’s wishes on controversial issues like merit pay without so much as taking a vote. Plutocrats will never approve of the public schools until they get to run the public schools, without interference from parents and teachers. Early voting begins Monday, Sept. 4. The election is Sept. 19.