Friday, October 26, 2007

A Letter to the Legislators and News Media

The following is the text of an email I sent to the Shelby Delegation tonight. I also copied the news media on the subject. My hope is to get some dialogue started on fixing our broken Criminal Justice System.

Here is the email:

Dear Shelby Delegation and News Media ,

I have been in law enforcement all of my adult life, 32 years with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and now as a technical consultant with the Memphis Police Department. My dad, three uncles, four cousins and two brothers were all in law enforcement, so law enforcement issues have always been front and center in my life. I’ve seen a lot during my time, having been shot at more times than I care to remember, though never returning fire. Fortunately, the criminals aren’t that good at shooting! Having said that, I think we can all agree that crime is our biggest problem in the Memphis Metro area.

I believe I am uniquely qualified to speak on this issue of crime abatement, due to my background and the successes I have experienced over the years. For more on that, click this link. My goal is not for self aggrandizement, but to try to get a dialogue started on this subject.

Hopefully, I have a suggestion that could help solve the crime problem in our community. I believe the criminal justice system is failing because it reinforces bad behavior. Our system reinforces criminal behavior, because the criminals know there is little to no punishment for their behavior. They know they can commit crimes hundreds of times, yet return to the streets to continue a life of crime – ad infinitum. In Shelby County, we have over 15,000 people who have been arrested over 10 times. How did we ever get so dysfunctional? We actually have one person who appears to have been arrested over 400 times. This is not a statistic that speaks well of our “system”, but it does speak the truth.

I can’t say enough good about the work the MPD is doing with “Blue Crush”, but until the people who are being arrested change their behavior, it will not have the desired effect. This issue isn’t about race, wealth, social status, geographic area or anything other than quality of life.

If you are interested in learning more about the “top ten”, visit my blog at where I also discuss a plan to deal with the repeat, repeat, repeat offenders. I would hope your group would take this idea and run with it. I know it will not be done easily, and I’m not saying I have all the answers, but by coming together for the common good, I believe we can fix the problem. It’s easy to say “there’s no way to fix it”, but I remember Rudy and his team fixing New York and Ronald Reagan pretty much defeating the Russians through sheer strength of determination. It can be done.
Here’s an excerpt from the blog:
In order to "stop the madness", people are going to have to get mad. I have proposed that we pass a law that deals with the repeat offenders in such a way that they cease and desist their activities, or move to another state. I think if a person has been convicted of a misdemeanor 10 times, the next time they are arrested on any charge, their case should be escalated to a class E felony. You see, the problem is that we have over 15,000 people in Shelby County who have been arrested 10 times or more. Dealing with this group first, then looking at those who are continually moving through the "criminal justice system" (talk about a misnomer) has to be the strategy.

I heard a prosecutor explaining the other day that the law doesn't make allowances for how many times a person commits a crime. That's just insane.

And . . .

I think a "decision matrix" would work for "would be" criminals. If the state were to develop a matrix that allowed people to know, clearly, what the penalty is for committing crimes, I believe, we would see a reduction in crime. You see, when we talk about fighting crime, what we are really talking about is modifying behavior. This matrix would help the criminals know what is coming if they do (x) crime. We could assign a value to each crime conviction and they could redeem them at the state prison or other penal institution. Do a burglary, first offense is worth 5 points. Five points gets you probation on a first offense. Do it again and you now have 10 points, do not pass go....

Misdemeanor charges could carry points too. Prostitution might be a 3 point crime, with probation on the first offense. Second offense, 6 points, go to penal farm for 11 months, 29 days, etc.

I hope after all is said and done, more will be done than said. Feel free to post any comments to my blog. I am willing to help on this project in any capacity. We simply have to do something to make our community a better place to live and work. Choosing the status quo is not a good option.

Thank you,

John Harvey


mike carpenter said...


I stumbled across this. Glad to see you are still on the web.

This is a really interesting idea and sounds a bit like the risk assessment tool currently being used in juvenile court to determine whether a juvenile shoudl be detained or released to his parent or guardian.

I have been appointed Chair of an ad hoc committee to study the criminal justice process from arrest to sentencing to probation. I would be interested in hearing more about your idea. It might be a good topic to discuss in committee. Call me or e-mail me if you would liek to discuss it.


Mike Carpenter

John Harvey said...

Thanks Mike. I would love to discuss this idea, and I am willing to assist with any brainstorming or committees or whatever else. I'll send you an email with my cell phone number so you can call at your convienence.

Thanks for caring!

John Harvey said...

I just thought I would let everyone know I have been contacted by a member of the legislature on this idea of a sentencing matrix. She is very interested in this concept and hopefully this is just the begging. If we get the commissioners, council members, state representatives and senators involved, and even some of the Feds, we have a chance to turn things around.

I've also been talking to someone in congressman Cohen's office about this idea and I have high hopes there too.