The Piercing Truth

This is right from the dictionary and seems to describe Albuquerque, Berry and Schultz. Fascism (f ash ,izem) noun An authoritarian right wing system of government and/or social organization. (in general use) extreme right wing, authoritarian, chauvinistic and/or intolerant views or practices. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one group over another, national, ethnic, especially social strata or monetarily; a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach. Compliments of one of our Eyes

Jul 31, 2007

Not a Crime After All

By now everyone knows that most counties and the state itself face jail overcrowding problems. With the state's population growth of about 117 people a day, which according to UNM's Bureau of Business and Economic Research places New Mexico's population over 2,000,000 (ABQ Journal - Subscription), it's no surprise that our jails are full almost before they open. Bernalillo County's Metropolitan Detention Center is the perfect example.

In 2004, the average inmate population at the west side jail was around 2,000 on any given day (ABQ Journal - Subscription). According to jail officials the jail is now running at 122% of capacity or around 2,440 inmates. To us that means that the police are doing their jobs. By putting criminals in jail they protect the rest of us... end of story.

Unfortunately judges have traditionally taken a dim view of jails that are overcrowded. That's understandable to a certain point, but jails and prisons shouldn't be country clubs either. In our opinion, they should be a place that guests should want to do just about anything to stay out of. But we digress...

The result is that county officials are caught between population growth, the state who won't take charge of prisoners unless they serve over 364 days, judges who often gerrymander sentences to keep offenders out of the state "big house," and rising health care costs that the county is responsible to provide its inmates.

In typical bureaucratic fashion, the solution being proposed is not to build more jails to keep the rest of us safe, but to change what is actually a crime in to a "civil" offense (ABQ Tribune). We agree with former Chief Metro Court Judge William Lang when he says, "It never made sense to me that someone who didn't get their dog neutered ended up in jail." (With the possible exception of The Mayer's (a.k.a. Sally Mayer) HEART ordinance, which should have landed her in jail.)

Unfortunately when a law is decriminalized like say uh... running red lights, due process rights go out the window along with an impartial judge. The accused stands in front of an administrative lackey who presumes you are guilty. (Reminds us of the old joke... "We'll give you a first class trial, followed by a right proper hangin.'") Cities and Counties LOVE the idea because along with (allegedly) solving their overcrowding issues they get to keep all of the money.

The Mayer proposed just this type of decriminalization last year. Thankfully the idea was euthanized this past May. However, today's Tribune story threatens to revive the idea under the banner of relieving overcrowding. Bernalillo County's Public Safety Director John Dantis is in favor of the idea.
Dantis is pushing the traffic tickets measure as a way for at least 3,600 people a year to avoid jail for minor traffic offenses, including improper lane changes, failing to yield, some speeding violations and not paying tickets or not showing up in court for such offenses.
Like guilt, sentencing on minor offenses should be determined by a judge. Legislatures should determine sentencing guidelines that fit the nature of the crime and take in to consideration the danger posed by the offender to the general public. In other words, jail time should continue to be an option for judges, which means that the offenses must continue to be criminal in nature. Further, it is imperative that the accused be tried before an impartial third party... a judge that is not employed by the same party as the prosecution.

If the Legislature wishes to act to reduce sentences for those proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to reduce jail overcrowding, let them risk the ire of their collective constituents. It simply makes no sense to find out that all of those criminal acts that people have been prosecuted for in the past aren't crimes after all, just so we can reduce inmate population and make a little additional money on the side.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

hear hear

Which is not to say we shouldn't add some other possibilities; like ankle bracelets, as an alternative sentence available to judges.

Nicely written piece, sir.

Anonymous said...

No Jail is best, as it just costs the taxpayers......now community service - that\'s what I\'m talk\'in about!!! Start pickin up trahs, and patchin potholes!!! Yea!!! Bring back the chain-gangs!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Comment above. Right on! Build a Tent City like the Sheriff of Maracopa County did, outside Phoenix. Let 'em swelter out there for a while after they pick up roadside trash all day. Just might be an incentive to keep them from being criminal assholes to begin with. We caudle these bastard low lifes while WE all get screwed, blewed and tatooed.
Either we do that or I'm in favor of the police just shooting them and tose 'em in the nearest dumpster. End of story. They won't be missed.
How's that for reducing overcrowding and saving money?

Anonymous said...

how's that for a scary comment?

Anonymous said...

What's even more scary is I was going to agree with it.

Anonymous said...

LOL, two posts up...I agree with part of your statement. Why not build a tent city out in the desert? The sheriff of Maricopa County has gotten rave reviews for what he's accomplished out there. the only ones that complain are the inmates...and quite frankly, who the hell cares what they think.

I think it's a great idea.

Anonymous said...

We need to take County and City Government Officials out of the management picture and allow the jail to fall under the direction of the Sheriff, just like they do in other major metropolitan areas (i.e. Los Angeles, Maricopa County AZ). This would require the jail staff to be Deputy Sheriffs but at least they would report to 1 elected official not a group of idiots. Hell, while were add it combine City and County Government into one to include law enforcement. It failed once in the general election but I believe more voters are disgusted with the current political affairs of both the City and County that it would probably pass now.

cartman said...

Honestly, there are darn few traffic offense that are worth jsiling someone w/the type of miscreant in MDC. Someguy who FTA'ed on a speeding ticket doesnt deserve to be beaten, molested or otherwise pestered by some Prison Gang lowlife. A $200 crime aint the same as having the guy stabbed & raped in a cell

cartman said...

sorry meant to say "Jailing" there

Anonymous said...

3 posts up...You must really be a moron. The city does not run or manage the jail, the county does and has for over a year! John D., Alan A. & the rest of the booger eaters over at the County are in charge of that mess, wake up!

Anonymous said...

The key to this whole discussion anchors in personal responsibility. As always, there are exceptions to every rule, but if people are not willing to be responsible enough to take care of your tickets, update your address on license/registration when you move (so Metro and MVD can mail your paperwork to the correct address), or notify Metro Court when you cannot make a court date....then there are penalties. There are consequences to every choice we make in life and a trip to jail is the consequence for not taking care of your court business. I have a couple of questions and ideas to pose in regard to this.
1. If these crimes are decriminalized do officers have the ability to enforce them?
2. Next time you are in a crash...and the other driver does not have insurance and has an outstanding warrant for his/her unpaid "no insurance" ticket...should the officer simply issue another ticket??? Will the result be any different?
3. If people know that can get away with the "petty crimes"....what is to deter them from committing the less "petty crimes" such as breaking into your car, your house, robbing you. This is a theory called the "broken windows" theory....if you let the little things slide...eventually the big things will begin to slide as well. Anyone who has raised children knows exactly what I am talking about.
3. Take the fun out of jail. Make the inmates work for their time. Charge a daily fee to stay there which can be worked off by performing community service. Picking up trash, pulling weeds, sweeping/mopping floors, painting, digging ditches for the myriad of city road projects, and sorting recyclables (for Master Marty's new Green Recycling Initiative), are not fun...and if you have to do it for 8 hours a day while you are in jail...you might not want to go back so soon.
4. Contact ICE and Homeland security and remove any illegal immigrants from the jail population. This won't solve the overcrowding issues, but it will sure free up some bed space. Let the feds hold the subjects until their case has been finished and then deport them. Why should the county/city pay to feed/clothe someone who is violating federal law.
5. Many people have trade skills and could be put to work using those, so when they get out...they have some more experience. For those that don't, start an aprenticeship program. This would require some startup monies, but if people are trained and able to support themselves, then at least a few might find a little pride in being self-sustaining and not come back.
6. There are normal/average/everyday citizens that end up in jail due to an oversight, however they are few and far between. If you look at the arrest records of your jail population...there are many repeat offenders. It is releasing these repeat offenders that has caused the current increase in our crime rate (don't believe Master Marty...crime is not down, it is simply not reported by your media outlets). People who are willing to violate the "petty crimes" and not take responsibility for their actions, are the same people who are willing to commit the more serious crimes, knowing that their bond will be set low enough that they can bond out because the judges don't want to overcrowd the jail. Set the bonds for violent, drug, and alcohol related crimes much higher and keep people in jail for these offenses. If people are in jail, then they can't re-offend. How many news stories have you seen about a violent crime happening and the offender is a career criminal who was released into a community release program.
7. Build a bigger jail. Build a gigantic jail and another enormous longer term detention facility. 10,00 beds would be a start. Build the facility 50 miles out in the desert and create a corrections officer community with support services. If you have an excessive number of beds you can rent bed space to other detention facilities who are experiencing overcrowding. If the citizens of the city/county do not want to have to deal with the headaches of an increase in property crimes and violent crimes due to early release...keep those people in jail. Criminals do not have respect for other people and their property and should not be considered the same as everyone else. Average Joe Citizen follows the rules which provide order within our community, and those people who do not follow those same rules should be punished. Fair is fair. Criminals know that our court system and detention system is a joke and they rely on it being that way.
These are just a few thoughts.

Anonymous said...

sounds good to me, logical and everything. That's why it won't happen, it's the city.

Anonymous said...

I couldnt agree with you more, except for number 5 and some of your general assumptions. First, New Mexico is not like many other States that don't get run and sued by ACLU and locals, like we were the wealthiest State in the Union. Second, since the Prison Riots in 1980, its the 30 years of Democratically controlled and appointed Judges, that run the prisons. The ACLU is even manageing the womens prison in Grants.

Other states that don't take Federal money to the extent that New Mexico does, tell the Bureau of Prisons and ACLU to go screw themselves, when they cry prison overcrowding and "conditions". Remember when NM sent prisoners to Texas and Virginia and had to bring them back because the Prisoners threatened to sue us?

When Marty and the city controlled the Jail, why did he release prisoners left and right, because our overcrowding, means we can't have more than one per cell etc. Its called the Duran Consent Degree, and it still affects, 25 years later, made our lawyers and pols rich, and cost taxpayers millions in obsorbing the damages of offenders that the State doesnt want to incarcerate.

Someone above said traffic and misdemeanants shouldnt have to pay with rape and beatings, while in jail. So true, but theres a hell of alot more people killed, raped and robbed in the comfort of their own homes, due to ankle braclets, rehab programs au nausea, and release and bonding of repeat offenders and misdemeanants and felons.

Follow the money, and in New Mexico our schools, police, and government institutions are managed by lawyers and pols, who "fear" lawsuits (i.e. recent Santurary City incident) and judges who care more about awarding fellow lawyers, than deciding intent and justice for all taxpayers, not just the few.

Back in the 1980's, the legislature decided to transfer the DWI Drivers License issue from the criminal court to the civil hearing officer domain. The cost to taxpayers has been two fold. Overtime and dismissals, due to conflict for officers and union overtime minimums. Then the cost for hiring a multitude of civilian lawyers to serve as these hearing officers, clerical etc. The system suffered, because now we have years of people driving with drivers licenses, that have been convicted, rehabed, convicted, fined, rehabed etc., sometimes 17 times. Has anyone seen a reduction in DWI deaths and property damage and cost to even insurance carriers, since the lawyers manipulated the criminal law for these poor DWI's?

THe move by Marty to put the Red Light violations in the civil arena, will have the same effect except that the fines will have a impact on those who end up paying. I wonder how many enforcers the City has hired to go out and collect the fines from the "poor" and illegals, if he can find them. Personally, I think the camera's are a good investment, but the manipulation of criminal law, and the inability of the legislature to hire judges and magistrates to handle all the criminal cases, is the true offense by politicians. The red lights and the DWI Drivers License hearings, all need to be back in the criminal courts, with a transfer of money from these civil bureacracies, back into the overburdened and understaffed Criminal Courts.

If we are a nation of "respect for law" as the pundits proclaim, they should come to New Mexico and witness what lack of fear does to general respect of law.

Anyone seen a study of how many murders and agg assaults have been prevented by our new gun registartion law??? Thought so. How many arrests and citations since the laws inception, have been written and enforced? Remember these are the same people who are writing law for Guantanemo and our troops in Iraq. Talk about implementation and accountability.

Anonymous said...

funny story - the Duran of the Duran consent decree? I arrested his son in a stolen car leaving a meth lab --- great family... all innocent as babes in the woods