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Posted: January 16, 2011 12:30 a.m.

Latarski: Responsible justice

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 non-existent 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 is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.

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