Friday, July 25, 2008

A Call to Action

For some time now, (a couple of years), I've been blogging about the problem of repeat offenders. I'd rather be doing something else, but if I don't get this information and expose it, who will? Nobody who has access to the data has stepped up. As a matter of fact, there have been some who have thrown stumbling blocks in my way. Even so, I persevere.

How long will we tolerate urban terrorists among us? A man was arrested last week for stabbing a woman in the face with a fork, while he was robbing her at a retirement home. He had been arrested over 30 times. This is not an uncommon occurrence. It is fairly common knowledge that we have too many repeat offenders, but did you know that we have over 52,000 people who have been arrested between 6 and 15 times? Over the past 25 years, we have arrested more people than the entire population of Tulsa, OK, or Cincinnati, OH, or Honolulu, HI, and many other cities.

Each Thursday, Mike Fleming and I have done a short segment we call "Thug of the Week", or "Thug Thursday". This little segment is not done to make fun of those who may have made a mistake and run afoul of the law, it is to let people know that the reason crime is so bad in this county is this - the "criminal justice system" is dysfunctional. We have a rule that in order to qualify for recognition as "Thug of the Week", you have to have been arrested 100 times or more. We have 140 people who satisfy that requirement. We have selected them, and brought them to people's attention, (some more than once, because they have been rearrested). It appears the cops are doing their part, but the breakdown is either in the legislature, the courts or the prosecutors or a combination of the three.

Mike and I want to enlist the support of every citizen in Shelby County, and the metro area. We would like to form a group that will take this issue seriously. We are particularly interested in people who are concerned enough to get out of the chair, out of the house and in front of elected officials. When politicians see a throng of people on their doorstep, they tend to listen, and attempt to appease the crowd's wishes. That's the way we change things. Are you concerned about the crime in our community enough to get out of the chair and do something? Will you take the time to go with others to anti-crime rallies or other such meetings? Will you take the time to help persuade the politicians that we are "mad as hell" and we're not going to take it anymore, by emailing and writing letters to these politicians?

If you are ready to become a foot soldier in the battle for our community, we want you. I encourage you to join with us to bring this to the attention of our elected officials. We want to present our concerns, in a passionate way, to these officials, while maintaining our dignity. We aren't asking people to shout, throw things, cuss, etc., though we would understand if you did. We simply want to make these officials understand that even if they are not serious about this problem, we are.

Many will say we can't get more aggressive on the criminals because it will cost us too much money. That's the same argument they used in New York, but it turned out the criminals got the message - they were no longer in control. The criminals have fled. Now New York is talking about closing several prisons because they don't have prisoners to fill them.

Some officials want to build a multi-million dollar jail, but I say we don't need to waste our money on thugs, particularly when the county is on the verge of bankruptcy. There is already a model for building very inexpensive jail facilities - see Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Phoenix, AZ. A tent compound can be placed behind the razor wire that is already in place at the correctional center.

Here's a look at the "tent city" jail:


The Tents Jail was begun in 1993 when Sheriff Joe Arpaio was able to obtain some surplus military tents. These tents were set up in an area adjacent to one of the existing Maricopa County Jails in Phoenix, Arizona. Sheriff Arpaio had previously decided that he would not release any inmates due to jail overcrowding, and housing sentenced inmates in the tents seemed a good solution. Funding for the project was minimal, and included the cost for cement necessary for base pads, secure fencing, and electric costs for heating, cooling and lights.

The Tents Jail can currently hold up to 2,000 inmates.

Sheriff Arpaio has added a few improvements at the Tents Jail, including two Sky Watch Towers for security, stun fences around the perimeter, and facial recognition computer software for inmate identification. K-9 units and patrol deputies have been added for additional security. The Classification Unit conducts background checks on inmates before they are housed in the tents, so that dangerous or predatory individuals are not placed there.

Scheduling tours: Group tours of the internationally famous Tents Jail can be scheduled in advance by calling: 602-876-5551

    . Adults only (ages 18 and over)

    . Tours will be conducted by Tents jail staff

    . Group size: 10 to 30 adults

    . Time and date availability to be determined by Tents Jail Administration

    . Dress standards apply. (Business casual is appropriate.)

    . Other guidelines/requirements may be established by Tents Jail Administration.

Please see the "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) pages for more information about visitation hours/rules, regulation and rules about inmate mail, and other questions related to the Tents Jail.

I'll be posting more on this as we move forward. It's time to take this to the next level.


Bookmark said...

I'm ready just tell us when and where. Thanks, Randall

Anonymous said...

I'm in. You're on my blogroll.


Joe said...

Just found your blog... Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I tent city jail is what Shelby County needs!!!

SDL said...

"It is fairly common knowledge that we have too many repeat offenders, but did you know that we have over 52,000 people who have been arrested between 6 and 15 times? Over the past 25 years, we have arrested more people than the entire population of Tulsa, OK, or Cincinnati, OH, or Honolulu, HI, and many other cities."

(SIGH) You police guys are really tough to even keep coming to work with stats such as these.

John Harvey said...

I don't know. I think we keep hoping we can make things better. I think we will be able to get the laws changed this year, and that will make things better.