Letters to the Editor

Juvenile offender program should be protected | LETTER TO THE EDITOR

To the editor:

Campaign season is warming up and critical hopefuls are scrutinizing the incumbents, scratching for loose strands to pull or cracks in the system to exploit, all of which is normally accepted democracy in action.

The responsibility of our voting public, however, is to try to see things from a broader perspective than the slippery sound bites that candidates use to incite emotional responses instead of level headed understanding.

A current issue making the news is criticism of our county’s juvenile offender treatment program and facilities. It was noted that the facility has recently had less than capacity occupancy. They suggest that it be shut down and offenders sent to other counties for detention and correction. They allege a cost savings or even a profit.

It should be noted that the reported “dramatic decrease in the number of kids that end up at the facility” is cause for praise of the principles and programs pursued by leaders such as Judge Hancock, Sheriff Brown, Prosecutor Banks, former Superior and Juvenile Court Administrator Mike Merringer, and apparently followed by the current Administrator Brooke Powell, Detention Manager Gerald Murphy, those administering the drug courts, and those who work for and at their direction.

Particularly for juveniles, justice that is remedial rather than merely knee-jerk-punitive requires wisdom, understanding and foresight instead of the simple-minded angry hammer approaches more likely used in uncaring out-of-county facilities.  It also costs more at first.

But when one realizes that for decades the national cost of incarceration has typically run close to the average worker’s annual income, one realizes that reducing recidivism and crime rates ends up saving far more than the up-front costs that bring the rates down. Every recidivist “converted” equals a worker’s annual salary saved to taxpayers, to say nothing of the reduced losses to victims.  Nationally we have the highest rate of incarcerations among industrialized nations.  But here in Island County we have reversed that, and that deserves applause.

Every offender encouraged to be appreciative of our American way of life, given an optimistic opportunity commensurate with their abilities, and turned into an integrated member of society, not only is rescued from a life of misery to everyone including him or her self, but saves taxpayers money by the bushelful.

The value to the offender alone deserves high recognition and respectful appreciation. The program has been a success, and should be praised and protected instead of jettisoned.


Oak Harbor

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