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System taking fear out of incarceration

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Don’t spend library property tax cut all in one place

By BEN CARLSON

Column as I see ’em …
Ever considered smoking some meth or snorting a little oxy?
I haven’t, and aside from a desire to avoid being a junky there’s one major reason why: I’m petrified of ending up in jail.
Until the past couple of years, I had the misguided, or perhaps naïve, notion that hard drugs like meth, coke or prescription pills would lead to a decade or two behind bars.  
How stupid is that? In reality, those drugs will certainly get a person into some serious trouble, but the notion that they will result in hard time in the pokey simply isn’t true.
Over the years I’ve watched dozens and dozens of people charged with making meth waltz in and out of the court system only to end up on some sort of extended probation.
Only once do I recall a guy pulling some genuinely hard time. He got 25 years in the slammer, but cooked his meth with a gun in his pocket and daughter in the house.
It would be easy to look at this problem and blame it on prosecutors too eager to offer plea bargains in lieu of costly trials the public can’t afford and their offices aren’t adequately staffed to conduct.
As for judges, they’re faced with similar concerns and bound by sentencing guidelines offered by politicians eager to pour money into pork-filled projects that will get them re-elected instead of incarcerating meth chefs.
What about the cops, you say? They’ll tell you they’re trying and the number of arrests they make gives that credence. But chasing dopers and meth makers is only part of their job. Their tasks also include important things like seat belt enforcement, thanks to politicians who suckle at the teat of the insurance lobby and tie state and federal grants to the number of tickets issued to hardened, seat belt-less criminals.
We’ve all seen countless “Click it or ticket” commercials, but I’ll be darned if I can recall a single one warning communities about the dangers of meth.
From the insurance lobby’s perspective, that’s understandable. When some unbelted fool’s head goes through the windshield, car insurance companies have to pay to fix the person’s head and windshield. When some dope gets fried on meth, he or she probably doesn’t have private health insurance so no harm, no foul.
Taxpayers, who have no paid lobby, will pick up the bill for that.
Blame whomever you want, but don’t forget one simple truth: like children whose parents threaten them with punishment for breaking the rules then don’t deliver, the meth makers and pill pushers aren’t afraid of doing hard time.
If nothing else, they’ll claim their problem is a disease, go into a cushy treatment center for some taxpayer-purchased methadone treatments and come out the other side largely unscathed.
Of course I’m too ignorant to understand the finer points of drug addiction, but I’ll bet those rehab centers and all they entail are much more expensive then locking someone up for $29 a day at the Shelby County jail and letting them simply dry the heck out.
I don’t know from experience, but I’ll bet meth heads would be much more fearful of getting busted if they knew such a fate awaited them.
And perhaps much less eager to get involved in the first place.

Speaking of money, it was refreshing to read in last week’s paper that the public library’s board of trustees has finally concluded that it has enough.
In case you missed it, the board actually voted to lower its tax rate this year by 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Being that the board has amassed nearly twice the surplus it takes to operate the library for a year, 10 cents or more seemed appropriate, but we’ll take a break where we can get one.
By the way, that 2-cent reduction means if your home is assessed at $100,000, you’ll save $2.
Try not to spend it all in one place.

Speaking of $2, that’s how much it will cost to be a judge in this year’s Burgoo Cook-off, set for Sept. 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Lawrenceburg Green.
Sponsored by the paper, the cook-off celebrates the annual Burgoo Festival and every dime raised supports Sheriff Troy Young’s Shop With a Cop program.
There’s no cost to attend, and entering a team is free. To do so, shoot me an email at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com and I’ll give you the details.
Hurry, though, because team space is limited.