Pubdate: Sun, 14 Sep 2003
Source: Kingsport Times-News (TN)
Copyright: 2003 Kingsport Publishing Corporation
Author: Wayne Case


The article "Tennessee Jails Packed, Perilous" is alarming. The article did 
a good job of identifying the overcrowding in the county jails in Northeast 
Tennessee. Indeed, it is alarming when the rate of increase in jail inmates 
is greater than the increase in students attending our schools.

Building new regional jails was the only solution offered. What are the 
alternative solutions? Why is the jail population increasing at this 
alarming rate? Is our society becoming more evil, or have too many new laws 
been implemented that require incarceration? What has been the increase in 
non-violent to violent offenders in our jails? What three violations 
account for the majority of the increase in the jail population? What can 
be done to reduce the increase in these three categories? These questions 
and more need to be answered before a logical solution can be proposed.

Why do we jail non-violent offenders? How many of these could be restricted 
to quarters to accomplish the same thing? Further, why doesn't the court 
partner with civic organizations and churches to offer constructive 
community service as an alternative to placing them in jail with the 
violent offenders?

Imagine the constructive benefit a non-violent lawbreaker could experience 
by working with Habitat for Humanity in building a new home for a needy 
family. Instead of locking them up with violent lawbreakers, this approach 
would put them in daily contact with community volunteers who are freely 
offering their services to make life better. Obviously, there are many 
additional civic programs in which the non-violent lawbreaker could work 
hand-in-hand with volunteers to make our community a better place to live.

The headline was alarming. But I believe a thorough analysis of the problem 
will reveal alternative solutions that will reduce the overcrowding in our 
county jails.

Wayne Case

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