Thursday, February 23, 2017

No More Jails!

Sheriff Livingston of Contra Costa County wants a jail expansion. His (skewed) logic is that the current jail in west county is overcrowded.  Well, of course it is.  He has seen fit to rent beds to ICE for their detainees.  This is not the use for which prisons were intended.  

This idea is a multi-million dollar boondoggle, and a total waste of taxpayers' money.  Interestingly, Livingston managed to be away in D.C., hobnobbing with Drumpf's nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on the day the vote was held concerning a grant to build the facility he wants.

There are already far too many people languishing in jail for such minor offenses as to border on the ridiculous.  The people of whom I speak were incarcerated for non-violent, minor crimes.  Mandated community service work would be a better sentence, less costly, and free up beds to boot.

However, it is difficult to keep people out of jail when there is a monetary incentive for making arrests.  This miserable scenario came about due to the privatization of many prisons around the nation.  The corporation runs them for a profit!  So, if they don't fill beds, they don't get paid.  That is just plain predatory!

Instead of more jails, let's stand up and demand investment in quality education, renew such older practices as the apprenticeship programs, (on the job training), and trade schools.  Let's have community centers for youth.  Let's reopen the treatment facilities closed during the Reagan administration to offer real help to people with  mental health issues.  Putting them in jail does not help them.  We need treatment facilities (with mandatory attendance) for people who have committed crimes while on drugs or alcohol. 

Livingston's plan is short-sighted, and wrongly focused.  We don't need to rent beds to ICE.  Let them build their own facilities for detainees.  In the long term, more and better treatment programs and community services of various kinds will serve better to keep people out of jail in the first place, and at a lower cost. 

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