Thursday, February 6, 2014

OC Board Denies Get Out Of Jail Card

     All of us want to live in safe neighborhoods and the thought of robbers, rapists, killers and all manner of violent felons being released by the Orange County Sheriff on to the streets to solve a massive overcrowding problem would trouble most of us. Due to Governor Brown's having to reduce the state prison population or pack his tooth brush and be found in contempt of the 9th Circuit, hundreds upon hundreds of felons serving time are being transferred to the counties' jails creating a real overcrowding, not to mention housing inmates into facilities that are designed for short term stays and therefore are woefully lacking in terms of recreational, medical, rehabilitation, vocational and educational services--hard to rehab an inmate when as is the case so often in Orange County Main, that inmate is locked in a cell 22 1/2 hours a day, regardless of type of crime guilty or charged with and where exercise other than pacing or working out in a tiny cell consists of less than a hour a few times a week walking on a caged roof with the smell of urine abounding as no bathrooms are present.
     The recent news that the request of the Orange County Sheriff to release certain felons from the jails and subject them to electronic monitoring was met with a blanket refusal by the OC Board of Supervisors. I am not privy to the transcript of the Board's discussions or their rational other that the list included felons but at first glance their actions in addition to exhibiting a certain sense of laziness are a classic case of tossing out the baby with the bathwater but here given the costs of incarceration also tossing the bathtub, pipes, water heater, water meter and hookup to the water and sewage lines
    The definition of "felony" is very, very broad and comes with a huge amount of discretion at the D.A. level on whether to charge a crime as a misdemeanor or a felony. Probably most felons are not violent and pose not physical threat to the neighborhoods and I suspect our Sheriff is not some left wing, liberal soft-on-crime social engineer and an inmate making her release list was probably difficult. One thing however should be clear without any dispute--incarcerating a person, awaiting trial, felon, minor criminal, violent or nonviolent in the Orange County jails costs a tremendous amount of money, imposes huge financial burdens on the inmates' families and neighborhoods, adds to the soaring pension liabilities for the Sheriff's Department and ends up dumping people back on to the streets without a job, no chance for a job, with no skills, minimal education and anger and frustration--great tickets to commit another crime, violate probation or otherwise end right back in jail.
    In the same way that it is difficult for a society to have uncapped amounts of  guns and butter it is also difficult to have overcrowded jails and social spending for such mundane things as education, health services, police and fire protection, parks, roads, and the list goes on. Time for the Board to revisit this issue and sit down with the Sheriff and fine tune the list--all of us like to take a bath, the warm, bubbling, relaxing, cleaning one, not the taxpayer financial one.  Hope you enjoy the muse comment below.
OC Should Not Be A Monopoly Board Without A Get Out Of Jail Card
Judge a county not by its libraries, concert halls or parks and trails
But rather on one hand the number and treatment of those in its jails
On the other whom it elects to keep and not release
Always keeping those whose violence will not cease
With a broad brush the OC Supervisors Board
Votes to all its felons not release on bracelet monitors but continue to hoard
As a headline, the decision plays well and to conservatives a good sell
But there’s more at stake here, more time on this we need to dwell
With felons from the state prisons being returned to the County in steady flow
To substandard rec, med, rehab, education, it’s not a place to go
The jails with convicted addicts and drug crimes are packed
Add to the mix the addicts and sellers and nonviolents who bail money lack
Nonexistent treatment and rehab in jail for this war of drugs we know we have lost
Modern day nonfiction, real life Hesters but in Orange with an invisible “A” embossed
Jail or prison time is the “gift” that keeps on giving to family, neighborhoods and friends.
Hard to work in jail, keep a house, earn any money for a family to spend
It would have been nice for the Board to rise above the headlines
And with some careful thought this blanket refusal refine
Assuming the bracelet system can work and if not, an implant chip will
Give the non violent felon a chip choice so we can lower our incarceration bills
And our nonviolent felons can strive to find a job
To restore some dignity and esteem the drugs or crime has robbed
With states on a legalization of marijuana stampede
Even if driven by a base motive of  revenue grabbing greed
Spurred by a President’s young use and now discounting of the evil of weed
The case for drugs like cocaine as felonies weakens and support should bleed
Non violent crimes like forgery is a “wobbler” and the guilty may be a felon crook
But on a blanket basis why deny the bracelet and for them throw away the book?
Leaders lead, after sifting through the pros and cons and unbiased review of the facts
At the end of the day, based upon what would be best for the County they should act
Keeping nonviolent criminals and addicts from bracelet release because of a felon tag
While our jail costs, jailers’ pensions, and social devastation soar and ability to fund social services lag
Means that on this one, the Board fails the test, has made a clear mistake
Do not burden us with rising costs due to adherence to a policy for solely a definition’s sake.
© February 6, 2014 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

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