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Jail and the crime rate

by and


There’s a lot of talk blaming the closed jail for the Little Rock murder rate since January, but let’s look closer. None of those accused of murder was out on a citation because the jail was closed. Almost all have a significant criminal felony record, however, which suggests we blame early releases from prison for those murders. And most were involved with illegal drugs, as are most in the jail, so let’s blame a shortage of treatment beds for these murders, rather than jail beds. The repeat offenders likely went through probation and/or parole, whose officers today carry a caseload of 100 each, double the national standard. So let’s blame an overloaded parole system. Our justice system has many pieces, and we must look at all to determine the best use of our resources.

When we talk of a tax to add jail beds, we should ask for details about who’s in jail today, and whether they ought to be there. Those convicted of felonies and awaiting admission to the state prisons take up 151 beds — the number proposed for one addition in current debate. Let’s arrange for the state to spend some of its ample surplus to provide those beds.

A listing of inmates given to the citizens’ advisory group turned up 48 with “hold for State Hospital” on their records. Again, an ample state surplus suggests a solution. The community would be better off spending money for mental health services than constructing more jail beds.

Let’s get the state to double the number of parole officers, and provide sufficient treatment beds so there are no waiting lists. When every addict entering the courts is offered treatment, we will be doing the job correctly. A jail bed costs far more than a treatment bed, and offers no chance of a change in behavior.

Jail beds have been added and added, yet population in the county increased but 4 percent from 1990 to 2000. We haven’t seen a bunch of crooks move in, so what’s causing this pressure? The repeat offender and the revolving door. We can break this cycle, and now is the time to do it.

Closing the jail to thieves, prostitutes and public drunks certainly has emboldened them, and when we re-locate some in the jail today, we shall again have room for these offenders.
Kathy Wells
Little Rock

A time to …
It does not say it in the Book of Ecclesiastes, but there is a time to shut up. I submit this time is long overdue for Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale.

It is highly inappropriate for a Baptist preacher to take a public stand on a state or municipal issue the way Floyd has done with Springdale’s coming decision on minor league baseball. [He supports a tax for the stadium if beer won’t be sold there.] I know that church-state separation is at best an abstraction for people like Ronnie Floyd and it makes me wonder about the institution that his doctorate came from.

We all know that Ronnie Floyd dreams of the United States becoming an evangelical theocracy, but I want people to remember: Hitler co-opted the Roman Catholic Church in the 1930s and we all know how that turned out. Bush and Rove have done the same thing with today’s evangelicals, aided and abetted by people like Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and Floyd. I am not sure if rank and file evangelicals are willing partners in this co-option or if they just don’t care.

Why does the Springdale Chamber of Commerce genuflect at the mention of Ronnie Floyd’s name? In other days, the Springdale Chamber of Commerce was proud of its independence; apparently, no longer.
George Brooks

Talking points
It saddens me to see what passes for political discourse in this country reduced to talking points. But in an effort to be in the 21st Century, I will propose several talking points.

First, any effort to portray scientists as just trying to scare the American people with talk of climate change is patently ridiculous. Any time one hears about efforts to scare the American public, it is those who report such efforts who are out to scare us. Furthermore, the military-industrial complex, which pooh-poohs the idea of climate change, is in the forefront of strategies to profit off the changes that will inevitably come. We commoners are not well served by propaganda which hides this effort, and will stay behind the curve unless we wake up to this disingenuous attempt to keep us in the dark (which is where we may find ourselves soon enough!).

Secondly, I would argue against any supposition that as a nation we will be better prepared for disasters in the future because of past experience. Examples of folly include the lack of plans for contra-flow (in which outgoing traffic is routed onto both sides of divided highways) in evacuation efforts in Houston during Hurricane Rita. I was reminded during the 100-year-anniversary telecasts about the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, everyone affected was fed and housed in tents after only 6 days! Lessons learned from that experience didn’t help those folks trapped in the Convention Center in New Orleans. I have worked with FEMA for eight years and have witnessed the change from an agency interested in product to one interested in process almost exclusively. This is bureaucracy at its worst.

And finally, I would like to suggest that a term everyone should be more familiar with is “tipping points.” In the context of climate change, this term means that at some point in the complex interaction between the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere, certain elements may drive the climate in unexpected directions. As we all expect the next century to be one of global warming, we should not lose sight of the suggestion that factors now in place may push the climate into another glaciation much faster than expected. We are in an interglacial period, but our equable climate may deteriorate almost instantaneously. Further study of climate change and its anthropogenic causes, impeded by the naysayers, is essential to understand how things may change in the near future.
Jay Sims
Little Rock

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