Thursday, September 20, 2012

Furlough more common

This police shooting down the road in Omaha has spurred a little low-level controversy over the Reentry Furlough Program at the Nebraska Department of Corrections. While I do not pretend to know all the details of this offender's situation, I can tell you that the number of people on furlough (not to be confused with parole) is increasing in Nebraska, as it is nationwide. We presently have 46 offenders in the Reentry Furlough Program living in the community here in Lincoln, compared to 443 on parole from the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

Essentially, the cost of housing and caring for prisoners has become so great that state and local governments are looking for more options to get offenders into some other kind of setting: house arrest, home detention, pre-trial release, probation, intensive supervision probation, drug court, work release, halfway houses, furlough, and parole.  There are all manner of options, and I am generally supportive of such programs.

It galls me to think that my tax dollars are providing three squares, new eyeglasses, Ampicillin, hemorroidectomies and root canals to non-violent offenders who could be taking care of themselves, to some extent. Frankly, I've known plenty of people who have been cooling their heels in jail or prison for things like third offense drunk driving, kiting checks, stealing granny's credit card, and so forth who do not need a high-security facility where the doors cost ten grand each.  Don't get me wrong: I want them to pay for their crime.  I just don't necessarily want to pay their room, board, and upkeep while they do so.  In many cases, they would be fine with a house mother who does bed checks. Many could continue their employment or find work, make partial restitution, pay some of their child support, or defray the other costs that end up being borne by taxpayers, and we'd all be better off.

The trick, however, as the Omaha case illustrates, is picking the right offenders.  When you have thousands of people under correctional control who have been placed in community settings, you are bound to have an occasional situation where Something Bad Happens.  When it does, it is a good time to review the criteria, the decision making, and the other contributing circumstances to see if anything needs to be tweaked.  I do not, however, like to see the baby thrown out with the bath water.


Anonymous said...

Let's not forget tne person back east who will be getting a sex change, thanks to our courts. True, the crime was indeed a serious one, but isn't that carrying "medical care" just a tad too far? Don't remember if the ACLU was involved, but sounds like something they'd take on. There's two major pet peeves in one short blog!

Steve said...

I'm galled, too, that those sentenced to prison have better housing, food, medical care, and many other amenities and recreational facilities, than many law-abiding citizens trying to manage for themselves and their families in this economy. It galls me even more to know it's my tax dollars paying for it all.

On the other hand, I think the sentences handed out to most are far too leanient. I'm sure the director could provide accurate figures, but I'd bet most of those in jail are not there for the first time. Neither were they sent to jail for their first offense. Most of these people have proven time and time again that they have no respect for the law or their fellow citizens, and they do not deserve to live freely among the rest of us.

Perhaps if they weren't so mollycoddled in prison, they wouldn't be so anxious to return. If the legal system had sent them to jail, rather than giving them a slap on the wrist for their early offenses, perhaps they would have learned their lesson instead of becoming habitual criminals. Just think how many crimes would never have happened if all these repeat offenders had been locked up instead of released back into society.

Yes, it is galling to think of my tax dollars going to support these criminals, but there many things we spend tax money on that are less important to me than maintaining a safe and civil society.

Anonymous said...

I worked at the State Pen for ten years. I was what used to be called a Prison Guard. It always amazed me at the ratio of front line workers that had contact with inmates to the administrative workers doing the paper work. The amount of C.Y.A paperwork is unbelievable.

Drive by the parking lot at NSP on a Monday or Tuesday between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM and count the number of cars in the parking lot. Then come back at 5:00 AM or 9:00 PM and count cars again. Also keep in mind that MOST of the D.O.C administration works at other locations.

Gun Nut