Pubdate: Fri, 08 Sep 2006
Source: Peoria Journal Star (IL)
Copyright: 2006sPeoria Journal Star
Note: Does not publish letters from outside our circulation area.
Author: David R. Hummels


Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis is clearly insecure about the surge in violent
crime that has occurred during his term, so he's consulted the
conservative playbook to utilize two classic maneuvers: blame
"liberal, activist judges" and demonize ghetto kids. Will welfare
mothers or music videos be next?

What strategies, beyond posturing, will the mayor use to stop the
violence? Why prison cells, surveillance cameras and "quality of life"
policing, of course. These ideas are sure to secure the votes of
privileged Caucasians, if they don't flee the city first.

Ardis claims that Judge Scott Shore's decision to sentence a
16-year-old to probation rather than prison was a slap on the wrist.
This is inaccurate and could be viewed as an insult to probation
officers. In prison, the state provides thugs with basic necessities
and an opportunity to hang out with career criminals. This gives them
the opportunity to become - you guessed it - better criminals. In
contrast, intensive supervision may entail frequent face-to-face
contact with probation officers, random drug tests, curfew checks,
electronic monitoring and house arrest.

The real problem with probation is that officers are underpaid and
overworked, thanks in no small part to Johnny-One-Note politicians who
continue to sell the lie that the solutions to crime are more prisons
and executions. If these charlatans were correct, the U.S. would be
among the safest nations on Earth. That is not the case.

Why not allow a young offender to maintain ties to his family and
community, continue his education and try to improve himself instead
of warehousing him? The real dilemma is that distressed neighborhoods
in Peoria have little to offer young people. Imagine trying to
convince a South Peoria teen that he should find a non-union, service
job offering low pay and substandard benefits when he can walk over to
the nearest open-air drug market and make hundreds of dollars per day.
Of course he will be a parasite. Of course he may be dead or in prison
by the time he's 25. But when you live in a ghetto, underground
capitalism may be the best thing going.

I don't claim to have the ultimate solution. Maybe we'll just build
more prisons and lock up more non-violent drug offenders. Maybe
Illinois will abolish parole, just to show convicts we mean business.
But if we're really serious, I humbly suggest an attempt to abolish
ghettos holds more promise.


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