Letter to the Editor

Criminal justice reform

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Recently Iowa Senator Grassley got on the bandwagon to promote prison reform. Criminal justice reform is a term that has been tossed about for generations. If any progress is to be made it cannot be from the top down or the bottom up. It must be reformed horizontally. In most states district attorneys are elected by voters. A prosecutor who is soft on crime will not be reelected. In some states district judges are also elected. Again, a judge soft on crime will have difficulty getting reelected. No one will legislate themselves out of a job. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country, 2.1 million persons are behind bars, 8.2% of these prisoners are held in privately operated prisons, and 85% of federal prisons are privately operated. Connections Corporation of America, GEO group and Wackenhut corporation provide these services. States are required by these corporations to guarantee 90% occupancy or make up the difference in cash to these private providers. The state of Florida, where I reside most of the year, has eight privately operated prisons. These prisons pay property taxes and the cities where they are located are allowed to count inmates as residents so any federal aid would be based on that prison population too. Decriminating nonviolent offenses, such as narcotic addiction and making the offense a health issue would eliminate much incarceration. A decade ago the Netherlands decriminalized most drug offenses. It created excess space in their prison that they can and do rent out to other countries.

These reforms will take time but the sooner we get started the better it will be for all concerned. Let's do it horizontally.

J. Roger Carr, Spirit Lake