WBALANCING PUBLIC SAFETY
Over the past year we, along with a representative group of Lane County citizens, have spent an increasing amount of time learning about the public safety issues in Lane County. We are still learning. However, we have come to some very general conclusions.
First, punishment, rehabilitation and prevention are not either/or propositions. Sanctions alone will neither reduce recidivism nor result in positive behavior in the future. Treatment alone will not provide the punishment or behavioral controls that are appropriate and necessary. A person found guilty of an offense ought to be fairly punished and held fully accountable for his or her criminal behavior. At the same time, a truly effective sentence should also promote the rehabilitation of the offender to reduce the risk of future criminal behavior. Because of extensive research, including work done by two local organizations, we know what things are effective in accomplishing this goal.
Current sentencing policies often demand too little of many criminal offenders, neither requiring nor even encouraging offenders to accept personal responsibility for their own future behaviors. In Lane County both our juvenile and adult drug courts have made huge strides in bringing evidenced-based practices into their everyday operation to reach these goals. Are they 100 percent effective? Not yet, but the incidence of recidivism has been dramatically reduced for those who complete with the program.
Where are we now? The Lane County commissioners’ decision to open 84 additional jail beds has had an immediate effect by keeping many offenders off the streets. Do we need additional jail beds to be able to institute immediate, swift and sure sanctions for those who can’t seem to stay within the law? Yes. Can Lane County afford to open more beds within their current budget? Probably not. Would Lane County voters approve a money measure to enable that to happen?
Perhaps more important, what can Lane County do to reduce the need for additional jail beds over time? What measures can we take now to reduce criminality and recidivism? Solutions that work are out there and if we had unlimited funds, they could be instituted immediately. So the dilemma facing those of us who are concerned about the public safety issue is not only the proper balance but also the tolerance of the voting public to fund what is needed to get to that balance.
We want to hear from the body politic. It is our understanding that an official poll will soon be taken by the county administration to try to get at this information. In addition, we, Lane Citizen Advocates for Public Safety, want to listen to what folks have to say on this issue. On March 30 we will hold a session in Florence. We also plan a central county gathering for the same purpose from 5 to 7 pm Tuesday, April 6, at the Lane County Fairgrounds. We hope you will come to talk with us about these issues during this time.
If contacting us via our website is easier, we welcome your comments at www.LaneCAPS.org Or, we have a post office box at 1430 Willamette, #185, Eugene, 97401.
Dave Frohnmayer and Jean Tate, Eugene
A TOWN HERO
I was saddened to hear Paul Prensky had passed (News Briefs, 3/11). Paul introduced himself to me within a couple of weeks of my being hired. He would drop in every couple of weeks or so to talk about his passion — justice. He wanted it for everyone and everything. He was an environmentalist who believed in human rights and a civil rights activist who stuck up for nature. He saw God in everyone and everything and could look at even the worst situations and behaviors with compassion and a smile.
As far as police issues were concerned, he saw the need for civilian oversight and accountability but never lost sight of the fact that police officers are human and need to be loved too. He came up with the idea that EPD officers would perform better, and know how much the community appreciated them, if the city would pay for them to receive a massage at the end of their shifts. No one has taken him up on his proposal, but it might be worth a try — Paul was right about a lot of things.
He was a champion of homeless people and saw how vulnerable they are to every kind of abuse — including the kind that is self-afflicted but painful nonetheless. He was unwavering in his belief that everyone is entitled to a safe home. Paul was cut from different cloth, and it was beautiful — the color of rainbows, the coarseness of a smoker’s cough, the sorrow of a prophet and the joy of a child. I’ll miss his smiling bright eyes and his poetic outlook on life. I’ll miss seeing him peddling by on his uniquely decorated bicycle and tapping on my window.
Paul Prensky was a town hero.
Dawn Reynolds, Eugene
How should a prison serve society? The joint in Vacaville, Calif., was once dubbed the Prison for the Criminally Insane, the final stop before hell itself. It is now the California Medical Facility. In the 1970s my uncle, a high-ranking administrative officer, took his queasy nephew on a tour, casually walking me through the building and exchanging greetings with prisoners in the work area. One moment was etched in my mind forever, when suddenly Uncle turned to me and said, “It’s too damned easy to get in here.”
Ever since, I’ve pondered what he really meant, and Uncle is long gone. I have lived in Sweden, one of those — shiver me timbers! — socialist countries, where both the philosophy and practice of prison administration place far greater emphasis on rehabilitation than on punishment. Sweden is no Utopia; it has its share of dangerous crazies, and of course recidivism exists, but is far lower than in the U.S. A wealth of anecdotal evidence indicates that many felons imprisoned for the most serious crimes have served their time and emerged as good citizens. Moreover, the cost is significantly lower.
One case has been highly publicized. A murderer served 10 years, and since parole has become a remorseful, productive, generously giving citizen. I confess a problem here. The murderer’s victim has no opportunity to become a good or a bad citizen, or anything except deprived of life on this Earth. In 1963 a 12-year-old nephew of mine was killed at random and left on a roadside by someone who has never been caught. It’s a deep, emotional struggle for all of us: thirst for vengeance and punishment versus the big picture of what is best for our society as a whole.
Ultimately I have to side with Peg Morton (letters, 2/18) on the merits of earned time release and rehabilitation options.
Jim Wood, Eugene
DON’T DO IT
An open letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission:
Please don’t name Eugene’s Beltline Road after Randy Papé. Many of us Eugene residents (I’d guess most) would find this offensive since he and his family businesses played the leading role in looting our taxes to build projects which destroyed Eugene’s downtown and ruined several areas such as Greenhill Road near the airport.
Please, please don’t do this. Nobody has asked our area residents whether we want this. We don’t. It’s just a gesture by the governor to make his friend feel good. That gesture should be enough; don’t humiliate us all by going along with it.
In case you think nobody will care, ask someone to fill you in on the controversies caused here by renaming much lesser roads after much greater men such as Martin Luther King Jr.
Phil Siemens, Eugene
MISJUDGED AND CONDEMNED
I wish to make a special public appeal to all local defense attorneys specializing in civil and human rights, and the ACLU, to please consider volunteering your legal expertise for the homeless at the Homeless Connect on March 18 and throughout these difficult economic times. They have no representation, no one to turn to for necessity camping advice against Eugene’s abusive, and unconstitutional, camping ordinance.
No homeless individual or family should ever have to lose vehicles, worldly possessions, camping gear, food or clothing to impound while waiting for the City or St. Vincent De Paul — but they are!
Help them to know their rights, to understand and fight against police harassment, illegal searches, public nuisance citations, anti-camping laws and panhandling laws (the most highly resented, in fact hated, constitutionally protected, free speech), and also offer them your pro-bono assistance in homeless related cases of unfair impound of vehicles, storage of personal belongings or other violations of state laws regarding the removal of homeless people from their camps.
The homeless of Lane County are all misjudged and condemned, and all suffer for that which is clearly beyond their control.
I am a formerly homeless resident, grateful for all those pro-bono lawyers and older homeless activists who stood up for me in my hour of need, in defending my rights and taking back my innocence.
Danielle R. Smith, Eugene
BAD FOR BUSINESS
Sanctimonious crybabies. Since being led to believe moving to Eugene was a good idea three years ago, I have continually had to bite my tongue in regards to the tantrums you lot throw. Chris Hughes? Congratulations, your recent batch of blatherskite (letters, 3/11) has broken my silence. I could go on a tirade about taxes, economics, and all that muck, but that would eat up my 200 words faster than your letter pissed me off.
Let me ask you a few questions though, Chris. Gathering from the general attitude and word choice of your letter, you subscribe to a certain brand of sensibilities, yes? And as a consequence of those predilections there are certain things you will not tolerate, correct? Therefore, I would confidently presume that if I were to arrive at your home, say, with an Uzi or the Torah, I might quickly be sent away. Now, drawing parallels between assault weapons and pot is a tad extreme, granted. My point is that downtown Eugene is a commercial area, and the fact of the matter is that people (homeless or otherwise) consuming narcotics nearby is bad for business.
Additionally, believing that pot is the only thing gallivanting through these peoples’ claret is naïve. I guess the most important question for you Chris is: You live in Portland! What the hell do you care? Shit, that’s 225.
Jarod Walker, Eugene
To those men of men who believe that showing off their pistol “will make them punks think twice before robbing me” are right. They’re going to think twice about how to sneak up on you and steal your gun.
Vince Loving, Eugene