I am writing in response to your article titled "Debtors' Prison" in the February 11th edition of the Northside Sun. You begin your article with a quote from your grandfather "Everyone should be treated with respect and dignity." I agree - to an extent. Everyone wants respect and dignity, but I was taught that it is not given freely - it must be earned. Several years ago, I worked for a government agency that utilized inmates from a local jail. One of the inmates asked me one day if I thought he was a man. Although I knew the intent of his question, I responded that he certainly looked like a male. He corrected me and asked the same question again. My answer was that when you act like a man you will be treated like a man. I then explained to him what I meant.
There is a big push these days for "judicial reform". Why? Because those who are pushing for the reform have decided there are too many people in our jails and prisons. Let me ask you this. If our incarceration numbers were half of what they currently are, would you be as concerned? I doubt it. And why not? Because you would not give judicial reform a second thought. So, you see, it's about numbers, not about the so called plight of the down trodden.
Then you give the lame example of the poor guy who doesn't pay his parking ticket and winds up having his life completely ruined. There are a few fallacies in your example. First fallacy: he forgot. Well, you know, maybe it's time he put on his big-boy pants and fulfilled his responsibilities in life. Second, even if he has some mental defect as you say, I don't know of judge anywhere that if the individual would take on some responsibility, own up to his mistake, would not take that in to consideration. I contend that most of the people who fall into your example just don't give a damn. In my town there is a local AM radio station that delivers the local news each morning. One of the first segments of the news is the police report for the past 24 hours. It is absolutely remarkable at the number of people that are arrested for what?
Contempt of court for not appearing as ordered. And not for the first time either. They are arrested because they have 3, 4, 5 or more contempt citations. These people don't fall in your example; they just don't give a damn and flaunt the law. This same radio station used to give the "court report;" the results from the municipal court. He quit because the report was just too lengthy.
Over and over again we hear about people who had been arrested and convicted of shoplifting - 4th offense; contempt of court - 3rd offense; driving with no driver's license; driving with no insurance. These may seem like minor offenses, and you would probably say they could not afford insurance, or they lost their license because they did not pay their parking ticket. But these laws are necessary in order to maintain an orderly society. So, should there be separate penalties for those that can remember and have the means to pay the parking ticket and another for those that don't have the means and don't remember?
You see, Mr. Emmerich, the problem here is not the judicial system; the problem is that we are becoming increasingly immersed in a decaying society. A society that is lacking in morals, personal responsibility, work ethics and just the basic tenants of a civilized society. How do we turn this around? I have no idea. But I am convinced that until we take the necessary steps to turn this around your so called "judicial reform" will accomplish nothing more than make it more convenient and less painful for citizens to thumb their noses at law and order.
There was a time when we could take a lot of things for granted, things that to me sound basic: getting a job and doing the necessary things to keep it; taking care of your spouse and children; taking responsibility for your actions; keeping the Golden Rule.
Not so anymore. And because we have so many that don't abide by these tenants of an orderly, civilized society we feel we must find excuses for their behavior rather than demanding their compliance. And this puts us where we are now - a movement to decrease or eliminate consequences for antisocial behavior.
Please don't misunderstand me; I am all for rehabilitation where it is appropriate and giving deserving individuals a second chance. But, you see, our jails and prisons are filled to overflowing with those that are habitual offenders, and I'm not necessarily talking about violent offenders, but those that continue to shop lift, violate traffic and drug laws, and violate parole.
Judicial reform at any level would certainly reduce in incarceration numbers, but it would solve nothing. To quote John Adams: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." We are no longer a moral and religious people, and yet we take the Constitution and manipulate it fit the current situation.
And the news media constantly bombards us with the fact that minorities are disproportionately represented in our incarcerated population. I agree. But the media stops short of telling us that minorities commit a disproportionate amount of the crimes, and not just in percentages but in numbers as well. If that sounds racist, well, I call 'em like I see 'em.
I am all for making changes for improvement. But to change our laws because a significant number of people refuse to abide by them is not the answer.
1408 Sunset Drive
Canton, MS 39046