A second chance

This is going to be a heads-up kind of story.

Good Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise, I’ll have a feature in tomorrow’s Patriot Post regarding efforts at criminal justice reform. It’s a topic which should be farther out on the stove than it is, but typically it sits on that rearmost burner.

While I talk briefly about and link to remarks from Sen. Mike Lee of Utah regarding his proposal, I don’t get to mention the local perspective on this criminal activity.

Addiction is a terrible scourge in our community, and I think we can all agree on that. It seems like every week we hear about another death from an overdose, but more often the path leads in a different direction. Once one gets a taste, the craving becomes such that the inevitable result is crime, usually theft in order to sell the purloined item for quick cash and the next fix. It’s a pretty surefire way to screw up your life, yet hundreds each year start along that path because they think they can beat the odds and enjoy the high without succumbing to the temptation that accompanies it. (Or, in some cases, can’t deal with the pain otherwise.)

I’m sure if I asked our State’s Attorney Matt Maciarello I could find out what alternative sentences are allowed for the high percentage of drug-related cases we have. (Adding to that total, I’m sure, is the drug interdiction expertise our Sheriff Mike Lewis has. And yes, for those who read here from around the country, he is indeed my Sheriff.) But there’s the demand for getting criminals off the streets so alternatives may not be a popular option. A business burglarized for the fifth time in two years may not be happy to learn the culprit only got treatment and restitution. It won’t make up for the other damage and the perception it may not be safe to go to that office or place of business.

Somehow we have to look at the supply end, but with a seemingly unending stream of money to be made it’s tough for someone living in poverty to say no to taking money and becoming an accessory. I suspect there are a few in each school who deal, yet as soon as they’re found and dealt with another takes their place. “It’s the lure of easy money, it’s got a very strong appeal,” Glenn Frey once sang – thirty years later that’s still the case.

So there’s a difference in intent and the types of crimes committed. When the law fails to see these simple facts, it’s time for policy to change. Zero tolerance may sound great, but it’s impractical in real life.